7 January 2010
The government is to take “urgent steps” to improve South Africa’s National Senior Certificate system, Education Minister Angie Motshekga said following Thursday’s announcement of a 60.6% pass rate for the matric students of 2009 – down from 62.5% in 2008.
While the government’s aim was to focus on quality rather than quantity, the 2009 matric pass rate was still “disappointing”, Motshekga said.
She noted that quality assurance council Umalusi had approved the quality and credibility of South Africa’s matric exams. “Umalusi found that the exams are comparable to the best in the world and that most question papers were of the highest standard.”
These standards could not be compromised on, Motshekga said. “Indeed, it is through maintaining the standards of our examinations that we are able to assess the shortcomings in the quality of learning and teaching.
“We must acknowledge that there is poor teaching in many of our schools. Management in our schools is often weak and lacks leadership and commitment. Our systems are also often inefficient.”
More focus on teaching, learning
A recent report on the implementation of South Africa’s school curriculum had indicated an urgent need to improve the quality of teaching in the country’s schools, the minister said.
Steps had been taken to implement some of these recommendations, in particular to ensure that teachers and student would be able to focus more on actual teaching and learning in the classroom.
All nine provincial education ministers would meet in February to discuss a technical report on the results, the minister said, as well as a number of proposed interventions to support the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement in Grades 10, 11 and 12.
“Our provincial education department officials must support our schools by ensuring that textbooks and other teaching and learning materials are provided on time, and that real teaching and learning are taking place in all our schools from the beginning of the school year.”
Among the positive gains made by the class of 2009, the minister said a greater number of matrics had passed well enough to gain access to tertiary education, and that more students had registered for maths and maths literacy.
“We have set our focus on quality rather than quantity; that is the thrust of the new administration,” she said.
Paper leaking in Mpumalanga
Following an exam paper leaking saga in Mpumalanga, Motshekga said that additional steps would be taken to improve exam processes in that province.
Quality assurance council Umalusi had delayed the release of results for Mpumalanga after mathematics, physical science and accounting exam papers were leaked in the province.
On Thursday, Motshekga said she was able to release the province’s results along with all the others after Umalusi informed her that it had found no evidence of a systemic problem in Mpumalanga.
At the same time, Motshekga and the province’s premier and education minister had agreed that the examination structures in Mpumalanga’s education department would “immediately be re-constituted,” and that the national Department of Education would take over the running of exams in the province “until the necessary systems were in place.”
The police’s special investigating unit, the Hawks, was busy investigating the exam leaks, Motshekga said, adding: “Those found guilty of stealing and selling question papers are criminals and will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Mpumalanga was South Africa’s worst-performing province in 2009, with a matric pass rate of 47.9%. While the Western Cape performed best overall (75.7%), KwaZulu-Natal was the only province to improve on its 2008 pass rate, registering 61.1% compared to 57.6% the previous year.
In total, 581 573 full-time candidates and 38 595 repeat candidates wrote their matric final exams in 2009.