TRIMMING AND LIFTING MATRIC RESULTS
TRIM and lift. That’s what we do with our figures in January.
Seeing Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announce the matric results is like watching your best friend go on a first date. You know your friend is wearing a tight, tan undergarment (that trims some parts and lifts others), yet her date firmly believes she has gravity-defying breasts and buttocks.
There are those who judge figures at face value, and celebrate what’s proudly put on display, while others know that the truth is often hidden.
Motshekga announced a pass rate of 78.2% for the class of 2018, up 3.1 percentage points from last year’s 75.1%.
However, some argue that the “real” matric pass rate is much lower.
Senior researcher at Stellenbosch University’s Department of Economics, Nicholas Spaull, says that “the matric pass rate seen in isolation is misleading”.
He explains that “the widely-reported matric pass rate is just the number of full-time matrics passing divided by the number of full-time matrics writing (400761/ 512700 = 78%)”.
It does not take into consideration the thousands of students who dropped out of school along the way.
According to Spaull, around 1 million learners were registered for Grade 1 in 2007. However, only 51% of them wrote matric (full-time) in 2018, and only 40% passed. So while the “normal” matric pass rate is 78%, the “throughput matric pass rate from Grade 1 is around 40-43%”, he says.
Civil rights organisation Equal Education’s Leanna Jansen-Thomas is concerned about the high drop-put level. “We cannot forget about the children who do not get to matric,” she says.
Jansen-Thomas adds that there isn’t sufficient data about where those who leave school prematurely end up. Still, Spaull says they are “almost certainly unemployed”.
So what really happened to the more than 400 000 students who started Grade 1 in 2007, but didn’t matriculate with the class of 2018? What do their lives look like today? Why did they leave?
Ten years ago I sat on the stage with the rest of Luckhoff High School’s matriculants. We wore white shirts with iconic cartoons drawn on them. Mine sported the Powerpuff Girls: Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles.
You didn’t let just anyone pen a handwritten inspirational quote on your shirt. Only friends and your favourite teachers were asked to leave their permanent mark on the last school shirt you’d ever wear.
“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor,” reads one of the messages written in blue permanent marker.
Many pictures were taken that day. In one I’m seated next Nadia Thys, who just renewed a contract to teach English in the UEA, and Kim Isaacs-Hendricks, who got the hyphenated surname when she married her long-time boyfriend last year.
But what of those who never got up on stage that day? Like the boy in my Grade 6 class who dreamt of being part of the team that would help develop South Africa’s first flying car. The then 12-year-old wasn’t the best at maths, but he was good with his hands.
A lot of effort is made to expose children to careers that require tertiary education. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants are respected and revered. Children’s unique skills and interests are often overlooked.
“Do not judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree,” read another handwritten message, written in red.
Sadly our schools are often not equipped to fulfil the holistic needs of our children. So they drop out…