Call to raise matric pass mark to 50%

HARD LESSON: Pupils at Mwezeni Primary School in a remote village of Elliotdale outside Mthatha in Eastern Cape are still learning under trees. Photo: THEMBINKOSI DWAYISA
HARD LESSON: Pupils at Mwezeni Primary School in a remote village of Elliotdale outside Mthatha in Eastern Cape are still learning under trees. Photo: THEMBINKOSI DWAYISA

PRESSURE is mounting on the government to improve the quality of education, with civil society calling for the Matric pass mark to be increased from 33% to 50%.

The call, which is led by the Citizens Movement for Social Change, also wants the government to review its relationship with the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu).

Citizens Movement for Social Change is a coalition of civil society activists aimed at influencing public policy.

It is led by renowned social activist and former World Bank Human Development Network director Dr Mamphela Ramphele.

Speaking at an Old Mutual corporate social investment forum in Johannesburg this week, Ramphele confirmed that the movement was to launch a campaign aimed at "supporting government in improving the quality of education but also hold the authorities accountable".

The official launch is on June 6.

The campaign, among others, calls for:

- All children from the age of 3 years to be registered at early learning centres by 2013,

- Assessment of teachers' competency to be completed by the end of the year,

- The matric pass mark to be increased from 33% to 50%, and

- The government to stop "the wasteful tendency of turning successful maths teachers into failed principals and start rewarding people for their specialised skills.

Ramphele blames the poor quality of education in the country on the employment of incompetent educators and the political relationship between the Department of Basic Education (as an employer) and Sadtu.

She cited the case of Eastern Cape - where the conflict between officials and Sadtu has brought learning to a standstill - as an example of how the ANC government was making political calculations at the expense of learners in the province.

Ramphele said the government's failure to deliver quality education and civil society's failure to hold the authorities accountable have led to a situation wherein "we have doubled our education budget but slipped to 131 in a list of 142 countries when it comes to maths competency - beaten by countries with less resources like Malawi".

About 68% of children aged four and below do not go to early childhood development centres, according to the South African Institute for Race Relations.

The state is working towards universal access to Grade R by 2014.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga's spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said it was harder to pass matric now than it was during apartheid.

"During apartheid, you could pass because of an aggregate if the total of all your subjects marks were 720. We do not do that, you are supposed to pass all the subjects."

He said for matric candidates to pass, they are required to get at least 30% for three subjects, including a home language, and 40% for three other subjects.

Sadtu secretary Mugwena Maluleke said teachers had a right to political affiliation.

"What we have been saying is that the profession has to be professionalised. We need to deal with education and not the union. We care about quality education and lifelong teacher development," Maluleke said.

He said the call to increase the pass mark from 30% to 50 % was based on fantasy.

"Ramphele lives in a fantasy. The pass mark was increased from 27% during apartheid to what it is now.

"I agree that there should be universal Grade R by next year because it is the foundation of our education."

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