Im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion has a spin-off ef­fect

The Herald (South Africa) - - YOUR VIEWS - Siyab­ulela Fo­bosi, ed­u­ca­tion re­searcher, Pub­lic Ser­vice Ac­count­abil­ity Mon­i­tor, Rhodes Univer­sity, Gra­ham­stown

BA­SIC Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga an­nounced the re­sults of the Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate class of 2017 on Thurs­day Jan­uary 4 and, noted “that the na­tional pass rate im­proved to 75.1% when pro­gressed learn­ers are in­cluded and 75.6% if they are ex­cluded”.

This was a 2.6 per­cent­age in­crease from 72.5% in 2016.

These re­sults show how the coun­try’s school leavers per­formed in their fi­nal ex­ams af­ter 12 years of for­mal school­ing.

The re­sults spawn a great deal of de­bate.

There is a huge fo­cus on ma­tric re­sults ev­ery year, in par­tic­u­lar the na­tional pass rate.

While it is im­por­tant to look at the na­tional pass rate to see how our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is do­ing, it is more crit­i­cal to recog­nise that the fo­cus on the na­tional pass rate of­ten ob­scures sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in pro­vin­cial achieve­ments, the di­vi­sions be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, as well as the un­equal out­comes for pupils in poorer schools.

The Free State was the top achiev­ing prov­ince last year with a pass rate of 86.1%.

Gaut­eng was in the sec­ond place, hav­ing achieved 85.1%‚ the same pass rate as in 2016.

The Eastern Cape “achieved 65%‚ up from 59.3% in 2016 – the sec­ond largest im­prove­ment in the coun­try while Lim­popo achieved 65.6%‚ up by 3.1% from 2016”.

The Eastern Cape (65%) and Lim­popo (65.6%) achieved less than 70% in com­par­i­son to other prov­inces.

While the Eastern Cape ex­pe­ri­enced an im­prove­ment of 5.7%, there is a need to im­prove the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion from Grade R on­wards and not only in Grade 12. The ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion re­mains very poor, mostly in the his­tor­i­cally de­prived ar­eas in the Eastern Cape.

Some of the schools do not even meet the ba­sic learn­ing in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments such as ac­cess to lab­o­ra­to­ries, li­braries and in­ter­net con­nec­tions.

This re­sults in pupils ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grade rep­e­ti­tion and drop­ping out.

Pupils from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds per­form poorly be­cause they are en­rolled in schools with fewer re­sources, such as ed­u­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als and staff.

A Fis­cal Mon­i­tor re­port re­leased in Oc­to­ber last year by the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund, Tack­ling In­equal­ity, notes that ad­dress­ing ed­u­ca­tion dis­par­i­ties will lead to im­prove­ment in equal­ity.

As such, nar­row­ing the dis­par­i­ties in qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and learn­ing out­comes is nec­es­sary to im­prove enrolment and aca­demic achieve­ments for all.

In other words, more em­pha­sis should be placed on im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and not just an ob­ses­sion with the ma­tric pass rate an­nu­ally.

There should be bet­ter re­sourc­ing in the foun­da­tion phase and en­sur­ing ad­e­quate Grade R fund­ing.

Sup­port should be pro­vided to more ru­ral/poor per­form­ing schools and dis­tricts.

Im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion has the po­ten­tial to ad­dress sev­eral so­cio-eco­nomic prob­lems, re­duce dropout rates and bet­ter equip ma­tric­u­lants to pur­sue fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion or en­ter the job mar­ket.

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