SA schools official dropout rate hides the true picture

If we are to take SA forward and give fair opportunities to our children to succeed, then this government needs to do a serious self-reflecting, the writer says.
If we are to take SA forward and give fair opportunities to our children to succeed, then this government needs to do a serious self-reflecting, the writer says.
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The actual dropout rate is always a hot topic when the results of the matric exams come out every year.

This is to be expected, especially when it remains a permanently ongoing issue.

It's only natural to look at the matric pass rate and the dropout rate, among other factors, in order to effectively gauge and determine if our school system is functional and learners are coping well or not.

The matric pass rate for 2018 was 78,2% according to the department of basic education (DBE), but we as the DA maintain that the real matric pass rate was 37.6%.

I recently put a parliamentary question to the minister, seeking clarity on what her department's director-general stated at a portfolio committee. This was to get a clear and simple explanation on how the director-general arrived at their dropout figure of 13 to 17,5%.

In their response, the department argued that by simply looking at the number of grade 1's enrolments relative to the year they should matriculate is not accurate.

They believe as they stated that, these figures are "inflated because there is a high rate of grade repetition in grade 1"; and in an attempt to support this statement, the department went on to provide statistics (the UNESCO method) on the percentage of male and female learners who repeated each grade.

Interestingly, these statistics alone are contradictory. You will find that grade 1 is at the very bottom of this list, which means the failure rate of learners at that grade is not as high as they claim when compared to all the other grades, in fact it is the lowest.

This contradiction is confirmed by the department's 2016/18 data, when they acknowledges that even the dropout rate is lower in those earlier grades and it worsens in the higher grades.

So in essence, that completely dismisses the argument that grade 1's enrolment is inflated due to failure rate.

Clearly the department has run out of reasons and ways to conceal the truth. By their own admission, the method of looking at dropouts for each grade does not give a full picture.

According to the department's own explanation, the consolidated dropout rate does not support the initial statement of the director-general.

Basically, after their lengthy explanation, we still don't have a clear answer to our question!

The above argument is flawed; it does not dismiss our method of calculation, because if we consider the matric pass rate from 2016, which looks at the number of grade 10 learners who enrolled then, logically these learners should have been writing matric in 2018.

If we break it down: 1,067,075 grade 10 learners enrolled in 2016, but only 512,735 wrote their matric exams in 2018.

This tells us that 48,1% either have dropped out of school or are repeating grades. This reflection does not even look at the lower grades at all, but simply tells us that there is a problem.

If we are to take SA forward and give fair opportunities to our children to succeed, then this government needs to do a serious self-reflecting.


*Marchesi is DA member of Parliament

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