The euphoria surrounding the improved Matric pass rate masks South Africa’s lack of quality education
The state of South Africa’s public school education system casts doubt on the future stability of the country’s economic and social stability, while the insistent praise of the annual matric examination result may very well mask the dire reality of the system until it is too late. The National matric pass rate of 73.9% showed an improvement from 2011’s pass rate by 3.7 percentage points as the total number of matriculants rose slightly in 2012 as compared to 2011. Gauteng achieved the best results with 83.9%, while the Eastern Cape was once again the lowest performer, with 61.6%. The DBE Technical report also showed an improvement in the 40% pass mark of 5.6 percentage points from 2011. Though the commentary in most media publications chants a developing picture of the state of the public school education system, most political analysts and education experts caution the carnival mood aroused by the announcement of the results, as the true state of education in SA’s public schools leaves very little to be desired. The pass rate of 40% in three subjects and 35% in another three subjects required for matriculants to receive a school leaving certificate means that a student who was able to score 35% for the entire matric examination is issued with the certificate. However, to gain entrance and attendance to South Africa’s 21 universities, a pupil needs at least 50%, and this is not guaranteed to all students who received a school leaving certificate. Learner retention also remains poor. Of the 1,150,637 learners who began matric in 2001, only 551,837 sat down to write the final matric examinations in 2012. Celebrating that 73.9% of the 45.2% who stayed in high school until finally passing the matric examination conceals the fact that only one third of South African students actually acquired a matric certificate in 2012, with only 26.6% of those pupils achieving university exemption status. A good education system ensures not only the development of human endeavours but guarantees the maintenance of adequately functioning social, political and economic systems. Over the past five years, the country has seen a doubling of the education budget to R 165 billion, yet the resources invested have not resulted in a dramatic increase in the quality of final schooling certificate recipients; the bulk of students who receive the tail end of the stick being students from under developed and rural areas. Mrs Angie Motshega, National Minister of Basic Education, asserted that she did not believe that the South Africa schooling system was in trouble but that the education of the black child was in crisis. Trevor Manual, former National Minister of Finance, concurred that the quality of schooling is sub-standard, especially in township schools. Teachers in black schools teach an average of 3, 5 hours a day compared to the 6, 5 hours spent by teachers in former white schools; a difference amounting to 3 years’ schooling system in total. Other key issues that have been identified as hindrances to the development of education in the country are violence in schools, substance abuse by students, sexual abuse of learners, and the high rate of pregnancy among learners. According to the projections from a 2005 Human Science Research council study, universities have proven unable to produce teachers in sufficient numbers, with 18 000 to 22000 teachers leaving the teaching profession each year and an output of 6000 to 10 000 teachers graduating annually. Although the Government has failed in providing schools and educators with the vital learning resources required to sufficiently educate learners, the improvement of the state of education in the country will require more that just the efforts of politicians. Parents need to take a more pro-active role in the learner’s education. According to a study by the Africa Institute of South Africa, a very high parental interest in a learner’s education is associated with better exam results. The School Governing Bodies (SGB), which were established to be the ‘government’ of the school according to the South African Schools Act (Act no 84 of 1996), should ensure that the school is governed in the best interest of all stakeholders. Professor Phindile Lukhele-Olorunju said; “I do not think government alone has the solution, but should make this a national challenge that invites South Africans to throw in their contribution, no matter how seemingly insignificant”.