CAPE PROP­ERTY GUIDE IN­SIDE TO­DAY Angie’s lat­est bun­gle

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert warns of ‘a cri­sis on our hands’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

IN THE same week that saw ques­tions around why em­bat­tled Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga was not axed in the cabi­net reshuf­fle, her depart­ment has ad­mit­ted that a com­mit­tee set up nine months ago to in­ves­ti­gate the qual­ity of the ma­tric pass cer­tifi­cate has yet to start its work.

The class of 2012 achieved a 73.9 per­cent pass rate, the high­est since the cur­rent National Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate (NSC) was in­tro­duced in 2008.

How­ever, just 26.6 per­cent of pupils re­ceived a Bach­e­lor’s pass which would al­low them to at­tend univer­sity and this, al­lied to a 30 per­cent pass mark, prompted wide­spread crit­i­cism of a “dumbing down” of the ma­tric ex­am­i­na­tions.

In a move widely hailed at the time, Mot­shekga pub­lished a no­tice in the Govern­ment Gazette last Oc­to­ber es­tab­lish­ing a task team to eval­u­ate key as­pects of the National Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate (NSC) qual­i­fi­ca­tion. But, to date, not even the names of the com­mit­tee mem­bers have been gazetted.

And with only six months to com­plete its work, the min­is­te­rial task team will have no im­pact on this year’s matrics at all, de­spite con­tin­ued crit­i­cism about the qual­ity of the ma­tric cer­tifi­cate.

Lead­ing aca­demic and Univer­sity of Free State vice-chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Jansen, who has pre­vi­ously slammed the low­ered ma­tric pass rate as an “ab­so­lute dis­grace”, and de­scribed the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in South Africa as “fall­ing into a sink­hole of medi­ocrity from which we are un­likely to emerge”, called for courage to tackle the cri­sis.

He told Week­end Ar­gus: “We’re so con­cerned with im­age… but we have a cri­sis on our hands.”

“The fact that the com­mit­tee hasn’t started its work yet prob­a­bly tells you that it’s not that im­por­tant to them,” he said. “It was prob­a­bly set up in a mo­ment of po­lit­i­cal con­ster­na­tion, when there was crit­i­cism of the sys­tem. Com­mit­tees like this are use­less un­less they’re to­tally in­de­pen­dent.

“The ma­tric pass rate is the only thing the min­is­ter has to hold on to. In the face of all her trou­ble with Equal Ed­u­ca­tion and the re­sults of in­ter­na­tional tests, if she can con­vince the pres­i­dent that it’s fine, the ma­tric re­sults are go­ing up, she’ll keep her job.”

Jansen said his univer­sity was draw­ing a line in the sand on the qual­ity of the ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion. He pointed out that the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment did not lose cred­i­bil­ity if the qual­ity of the ma­tric cer­tifi­cate was called into ques­tion, but that uni­ver­si­ties stood to lose a great deal if the qual­ity of their de­gree was ques­tioned.

“We need to stop mak­ing this a po­lit­i­cal and me­dia event and get the basics right. Basics in­clude mak­ing sure kids are in class, they have a rou­tine, teach­ers are teach­ing, and unions aren’t dis­rupt­ing,” he con­tin­ued. “We have a cri­sis on our hands and we need to do things that take po­lit­i­cal courage like stand­ing up to the teacher unions.”

As re­cently as Jan­uary, Mot­shekga dis­missed claims that the 30 per­cent pass mark had low­ered the stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion, say­ing that to qual­ify for univer­sity pupils had to pass four sub­jects at 50 per­cent, with 30 per­cent for their lan­guage of learn­ing and the two oth­ers at 33.3 per­cent.

Ques­tioned about the de­lay in ap­point­ing the ma­tric com­mit­tee, Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment spokes­woman Hope Mokgatlhe said a res­ig­na­tion had caused the de­lay. A re­place­ment had been found, and Mot­shekga had ap­proved all the names, which were set to be gazetted next week. The com­mit­tee would start sit­ting on July 26.

The orig­i­nal gazette, pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 29, out­lined the terms of ref­er­ence, which in­cluded:

In­ves­ti­gat­ing the pub­lic’s main con­cerns sur­round­ing the NSC;

Com­par­ing the South African pro­mo­tional re­quire­ments with those of coun­tries of “in­ter­na­tional re­pute”;

Con­sult­ing with busi­ness, em­ploy­ers and the aca­demic sphere to gauge con­cerns about the NSC;

Eval­u­ate the “value add” of life ori­en­ta­tion as a sub­ject;

Ex­am­ine whether maths and maths lit­er­acy are the best op­tions, and the pos­si­ble in­tro­duc­tion of “tech­ni­cal math­e­mat­ics”, for tech­nol­ogy sub­jects.

Even if the com­mit­tee rec­om­mends changes, it would be a while be­fore they are im­ple­mented, Mokgatlhe added.

But DA spokes­woman on ed­u­ca­tion, An­nette Love­more, slammed the delays, say­ing that ev­ery time

the ques­tion of the qual­ity of the NSC was raised, the re­sponse was that a pe­riod of five years needed to pass be­fore an eval­u­a­tion could take place.

“Well, it’s been five years. And we wel­comed the an­nounce­ment that this com­mit­tee would be formed, but the fact that it hasn’t even started its work is wor­ri­some,” she said. “There is so much con­cern in all quar­ters about whether a ma­tric equips you for life in gen­eral.”

Love­more cited high univer­sity drop-out rates, and the fact that they con­ducted their own bench­mark­ing tests and of­ten of­fered a bridg­ing year.

“Busi­nesses are say­ing that they don’t want to take on matrics be­cause they can’t skill them,” she added.

Brad Brock­man, ed­u­ca­tion NGO Equal Ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary gen­eral, said the depart­ment had set it­self the task of eval­u­at­ing the qual­i­fi­ca­tion. They needed to know when the fi­nal re­port would be pub­lished.

“They should be held ac­count­able,” he said. “When we look at the pass re­quire­ments we should ask whether our matrics are able to ac­cess ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties, or are they sit­ting at home, look­ing for low-pay­ing work?”

Dennis Ge­orge, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Fed­er­a­tion of Unions of South Africa, in­di­cated that while the qual­ity of the ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion was a con­cern, he didn’t be­lieve “fancy com­mit­tees and cur­ricu­lum changes” were the way to solve the prob­lem.

Pupils, their par­ents, teach­ers, prin­ci­pals and the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment all had a role to play.

Ge­orge added that pass re­quire­ments should be the same as the univer­sity en­trance re­quire­ments.

“The stan­dards are very low, and a pupil can’t even go to univer­sity with a pass mark of 30 per­cent,” he said.

Ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist Graeme Bloch said, “There isn’t a prob­lem with the qual­ity of the ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion, but there is a prob­lem with the qual­ity of the ma­tric.”

Foun­da­tions such as read­ing and count­ing weren’t be­ing prop­erly taught in ear­lier phases, cre­at­ing prob­lems later on.

Mean­while, a sep­a­rate com­mit­tee es­tab­lished to look into maths, science and tech­nol­ogy in ed­u­ca­tion has fin­ished its work and handed its re­port to the min­ster, Mokgatlhe said.

South Africa was ranked sec­ond last in the world when it came to maths and science ed­u­ca­tion by a World Eco­nomic Fo­rum study this year. Only Ye­men scored worse.

And yet the depart­ment says the com­mit­tee’s re­port was quite pos­i­tive.

“In the main, the re­port com­pli­mented the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion and provin­cial ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments…” Mokgatlhe said.

JULY 13 2013

Angie Mot­shekga

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