Every year at this time, out of the woodwork pop bogus education “experts” who, despite the availability of free information and data, cast aspersions on South Africa’s schooling system in an attempt to grab headlines and enjoy airtime on radio and television.
They hop from one media outlet to another, regurgitating the same old stories of doom and gloom. What is baffling is the media’s keenness to give these “experts” airtime without probing their motives.
The favourite topic of the “experts” is the minimum pass requirement.
The threshold of 30% and 40% has been explained on numerous occasions. If you have been living under a rock or somewhere else where such information is unavailable, it is a minimum level of achievement and is by no means the targeted level of achievement.
We have also been at great pains to explain that no learner will attain a certificate if they achieve 30% in all seven subjects taken at the Grade 12 level. This minimum level of achievement is to prevent learners who may not be able to perform at the required level in one subject from being held back simply because of that one subject.
South Africa’s schooling system, contrary to popular opinion, promotes excellence at every level, and we continually monitor the percentage of learners who attain distinctions and those who attain admission to bachelor studies. These, of course, are the higher levels of achievement in the system. Education is about taking the entire population of learners from where they are to the next level.
The National Senior Certificate (NSC), commonly referred to as matric, has enjoyed societal acceptance as South Africa’s premier schooling qualification and provides successful candidates with potential access to tertiary institutions and the world of work. The NSC not only enjoys local recognition but is recognised internationally and hundreds of our learners are studying at international institutions after using the South African matric as the admission qualification.
Engineers, medical scientists, surgeons and the chief executive officers of large conglomerates are all products of the South African schooling system. They certainly cannot be the products of a “matric certificate that is not worth the paper it is printed on”.
The rapidly evolving work environment and radically changing industry requirements warrant continual changes. As far back as 2018 the department embarked on a programme that has necessitated a change in emphasis in education outcomes and differentiated education access. To this end, the department is piloting a three-stream model with expanded opportunities for learners to pursue vocational and occupational tracks.
This will ensure improved alignment between the schooling sector and the world of work and will provide learners with the skills required by the workplace. The introduction of new subjects including Marine Sciences, Coding and Robotics, Technical Science, Technical Mathematics and Technology subjects will keep the NSC relevant to industry requirements.
The department continues to work closely with industry to identify areas of need and ensure that new subjects are introduced as the demands of industries change. Entrepreneurship is a major thrust of Economic and Management Sciences, a component of subjects first taken at primary school level and pursued further at secondary school level in subjects like Economics, Business Studies and Accounting.
The department is working on a curriculum blueprint that will shift focus towards innovative and progressive pedagogies and usher in competency-based learning, more critical thinking and deeper learning.
As part of the curriculum innovation agenda, the department will also introduce a new qualification in the form of a General Education Certificate, which is designed to recognise a more holistic dashboard of learner capabilities and support learner inclinations that are more suited for career pathing.
The department is fully aware of the challenges that confront the education system, which include the low reading comprehension levels of primary school learners and the knowledge levels of some teachers.
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These matters are being decisively addressed through reading programmes and intensive teacher development programmes, which are being implemented in conjunction with trade unions and other key partners.
Educational changes are slow and gradual and these changes are producing green shoots, as evidenced by various credible studies. In addition, we continue to work with strategic stakeholders, locally and globally, to improve and enhance our efforts.
Constructive engagement on the education system points to a nation that is interested in what children get taught in the classroom. As a department, we thrive on collaborative efforts from across the board. Unfortunately, instead of robust debates, we often experience grandstanding by leaders of society. DM