The quality of education in South Africa has hardly improved despite Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, lauding the Matric 2017 achievement. While the pass rate of 75.1% may seem satisfactory, she has not sufficiently addressed the ‘real’ pass rate – how many Grade 10s from two years ago have passed matric – and the unacceptably high figure of children who have dropped out of school.
Last year, 41% of the learners who had enrolled in Grade 10 in 2015 did not enrol for matric. Nearly half of Grade 10 learners are dropping out of or getting stuck in the system – delaying their entry into post-school education and the job market. The Minister however does not see this as a crisis and has refused our requests for an investigation into this high dropout rate
The 2017 national matric pass rate for candidates who wrote the exams was 75.1%, while the ‘real’ pass rate – the number of Grade 10s from 2015 who passed matric 2017 – was only 37.3%. This is cause for serious concern, rather than celebration.
It is clear that the schooling system is failing our learners not just in matric, but long before they reach the final years of school. South Africa is among the worst performers in terms of education internationally, having been placed last in Grade 8 Science and second-last place in Maths out of 39 countries for the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015.
More recently, we came out last in Grade 4 reading skills out of 50 countries for Progress in International Reading Literacy Studies (PIRLS) 2016. The study revealed that 78% of South African Grade 4 learners are illiterate.
If the matric pass rate is to improve, Minister Motshekga will have to address key problems facing her department, including:
– Teacher quality and availability: A total of 5 139 teachers have been identified by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) as being underqualified for their posts. The subjects most affected are Maths, Science and Technology at all levels, as well as African Language Teaching. There is also a serious problem with teacher absenteeism, including strike action;
– Infrastructure: The DBE has failed to meet any of its Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) targets. For example, out of 280 targeted schools, only 10 were supplied with water, and none were connected to electricity out of a target of 620. The Auditor-General also found irregular expenditure in infrastructure on a massive scale;
– Failure to deliver textbooks: Textbooks are a crucial part of the education system – children cannot learn effectively without sufficient learning materials. Steps have been taken to improve late delivery of textbooks, but delivery failure continues to occur.
Moreover, we must urgently address the issue of so many Grade 10s and 11s not making it through to a matric pass before leaving school. It is for this reason that the Minister should also announce the performance of provinces using her ‘Inclusive Basket of Criteria’, which focuses on both the quality of the passes achieved and the number of students remaining in the system successfully.
The DA will fight to ensure that every child’s right to quality basic education is fulfilled. We challenge the DBE to deal with the problem of rising dropout rates with urgency and to root out the issues that lead to it. We can no longer allow our children to be robbed of the opportunity to improve their lives.