The number of matrics doing 'critical subjects' declines

Physical science achiever Vusi Austin Hendricks with education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Physical science achiever Vusi Austin Hendricks with education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Fewer pupils are pursuing critical subjects like accounting, economics, science and mathematics, which could pose a serious threat to the country's future skills base.

The 2019 National Senior Certificate School Subject Report released with the matric results this week showed a substantial decline in pupils writing these critical subjects over the past five years.

Subjects such as accounting, economics and business studies declined by more than 20% while in the science fields, the decline was in the teens.

These are subjects that produce medical doctors, engineers, accountants and technicians, who are crucial to the future of the economy.

The department of basic education flags them as gateway subjects.

The report showed that in 2015, 140,474 pupils wrote accounting nationally but that figure dropped by 43% to 80,110 last year.

The picture was also the same in economics.

A total of 165,642 pupils sat to write the subject in 2015 but only 107,940 wrote it last year, registering a 34.83% decline.

Pupils writing business studies declined by 24.6% from 247,822 to 186,840 over the same period.

Life science pupils dropped by 13.51% to 301,037 from 348,076.

Pupils writing physical science shrunk from 193,189 in 2015 to 164,478, a 14.86% decline.

Those writing maths also dropped by 15.86% to 222,034 from 262,903. Even those writing maths literacy dropped by 23.2% to 298,607 from 388,845.

However, the number of pupils who wrote history swelled by 6.7% to 164,729 from 154,398 over the same period.

This week, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi lamented the decline in pupils writing accounting.

"In Gauteng, accounting as a subject may come to an end. In 2008 we had 35,139 learners taking accounting but in 2019 this number dropped badly to 14,768. We have a serious problem here," Lesufi said.

Professional Educators' Union president Johannes Motona said teachers who teach critical subjects needed support.

"There are issues of inadequate infrastructure. Some schools are [well] resourced while others are not. Even when the teacher is well empowered, if there is no infrastructure it makes things difficult for the learners.

"Subjects such as physical science require laboratories and a lot of schools do not have such," Motona said.

Motona added that some schools identify subjects such as maths and accounting as "killer subjects" when they see that they constantly perform dismally in them.

He said ultimately the schools then drop the subjects from their curriculum to obtain a better pass percentage.

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