failures a big worry
The matric results are out and the country can breathe a sigh of relief. But that relief will be shortlived since 38 percent of the pupils failed.
Minister of Education Naledi Pandor said 533 561 candidates wrote the new OBE National Senior Certificate.
"Of the 533 561 candidates with a full set of results 333 681 candidates or 62,5 percent met the requirements for a National Senior Certificate. The national pass percentage is thus 62,5 percent
"(Of these) 20,2 percent (107462) achieved the minimum pass required for entry to undergraduate study at university or university of technology," Pandor said.
This indicates a small rise in that number that are eligible for university places.
The failure rate is still excessively high and may put a blight on the future of many children.
Dr Vijay Reddy, head of the research programme on education, science and skills development at the Human Sciences Research Council, says that parts of the report on the exams look reasonable but the low pass rate is of concern.
"It means that three out of five learners passed or two out of five learners failed. That is a high failure rate. It raises the concern that the new curriculum might be of too high a level for those with lower abilities," Reddy said.
Reddy said there was a need to question if some pupils could have been diverted to FET colleges. There was a need to ask if they should have been part of the school system rather than going into the skills or vocational route.
"We should encourage FET enrolment. In most cases vast numbers of learners go to FET for subjects like tourism, carpentry and the automotive industry. FET skills are more linked to the job market. Our FETs can accommodate 1,2million learners though at the moment we have 400 000 registered learners."
The Democratic Alliance, while congratulating the Class of 2008, raised a similar concern about the readiness of the group to enter the job market.
"Do matriculants have the skills to get jobs, and can they get into university without writing an additional entrance exam?
"It is difficult to compare the results of the new OBE curriculum with previous years, so the credibility of these results is in doubt.
"The education authorities need to stop tinkering with elaborate plans and get back to the basics in education, to produce matriculants who can read, write and count. Far too many of our schoolchildren can't read and write at internationally acceptable levels," said Reddy.
This criticism refers to the low ratings South African children scored in worldwide research in reading and writing in the past 12 years. There is also a perception that our children are poor in languages and sciences.
The national and provincial governments have set up projects to improve mathematical literacy and science. The slight improvement can be seen in the latest results. But in subjects where there is no emphasis on excellence, the pupils' performance have been poor.
Reddy says that parents and the department should remember that the OBE curriculum is one dimension of the education problem.
She said schools which had performed well in the old Nated curriculum (rote memory) still performed well in the OBE curriculum. "The challenge for the department is to see that poor schools results improve."
Pandor commented on this in her report, citing several interventions that the deparment has made to boost poor performing schools.
"We will work even more closely with districts, teacher unions and other stakeholders to improve quality teaching and learning in 2009.
"This is because, despite the encouraging evidence of schools that are working to increase success, there are many schools that persistently under-perform.
I hope that provinces will use the amended South African Schools Act to intervene in these schools.
"We must act firmly against underperformance. Schools must be placed under the supervision of a recovery task team and be assisted with teacher development and learning improvement."
It is encouraging that while the department realises that the results are not outstanding, means are afoot to improve poorly performing schools.