30% pass rate just not good enough‚ expert tells education indaba

A debate on the validity of the National Senior Certificate and what needs to be done to help matrics to get better opportunities after school took center stage at a seminar in Pretoria on Monday.

The seminar was held at Freedom Park in Pretoria on Monday where the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT)‚ the Department of Basic Education and Umalusi officials met under the auspices of Dialogue SA to discuss major problems facing the basic education system.

The controversial topic of progressed learners and the standardisation of marks featured strongly in the debates‚ while questions were raised around the National Senior Certificate curriculum itself‚ and if the results reflected the realities of schools in South Africa.

Dr Miram Altman of the National Planning Commission however‚ pulled no punches‚ saying that while she could appreciate the hard work and patience that has gone into “rebuilding the education system” over the years‚ the NSC was at a very low standard for a middle-income country like South Africa‚ a factor which in turn impacts massively on unemployment.

“In order to make significant inroads into a challenge like this where we are fixing a system where black kids weren’t supposed to get through high school but now they are‚ that’s a big challenge. But we have to deal with the rightful frustration people have and educators and people in this room need to stay the course‚” Altman said.

“But for somebody who asks a lot of questions and reads a lot‚ it’s extremely hard to understand the education results. When I call education experts and ask why the pass rate is at 30 or 40%‚ very few people‚ including in the education department‚ have been able to explain this to me‚” Altman said.

“Why does the market have this perception that a matric isn’t worth that much? The reality is that the exit capabilities (of learners) are not what the economy needs‚ and a 30 or 40% pass rate is not what the economy needs in a middle-income country‚” Altman continued.

“This is not an exit capability that will serve the economy and enable transformation and lead to a decent life.”

Feedback from group debates echoed sentiments expressed by Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi‚ which called for increased advocacy and better communication strategies to better inform parents and the public about the NSC and how it works‚ escpecially the progression of learners and standardisation of marks.

“We are not fixing marks in dark rooms... our standardisation process is in line with international practice and does not only apply to DBE‚ but the Independent Examinations Board also‚” said Rakometsi.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga was due to deliver the closing remarks but left shortly after lunch. — TMG Digital