Concern over South Africa’s matric maths marks

The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, Umalusi, says it has seen improvements in a number of subjects but remains concerned about the country’s mathematics marks.

In a presentation on Friday (3 January) chairperson John Volmink said that the body is ‘pleased’ with the improvement in learner performance in subjects such as Geography, Physical Science and Mathematical Literacy.

However, he said that Umalusi has observed a ‘worrying trend in mathematics’.

“The subject does not seem to be progressing in tandem with cognate subjects in terms of learner performances.

“For example, performance in physical science seems to be improving year by year, but performance in mathematics is not showing any signs of improvement.

“It is not any worse but it is not any better – it’s just at the same place.”

Furthermore, Volmink said that there are concerns about the number of the candidates that are sitting to write the mathematics exam compared to the increasing number of pupils who are instead opting to write mathematical literacy.

He added that authorities may need to think about how it can stem this trend, and that there is a ‘fundamental problem’ with how mathematics is being taught in South African classrooms.

“Things such as problem-solving skills must be developed and the confidence to deal with not only routine problems but non-routine problems must be nurtured.”

Pass rates

While the official subject pass rates will only be published on 7 January, Government recently published a review of South Africa’s first 25 years of democracy showing how matric pass rates have changed.

Learner performance in Grade 12 National Senior Certificate (NSC) has been on an upward trajectory, rising from 58% in 1994 to 78.2% in 2018,” the review states.

“The number of students who are passing grade 12 is on an upward trajectory even though it has fluctuated over the years.”

“The below figure shows that bachelor passes are still very low even though they are increasing over time, they are not enough to support the skills needs of the country.”

Despite these improvements, the review notes that there are issues with the ‘quality of academic outcomes’.

Only 172,043 learners (33.6%) of grade 12 students managed to pass at bachelor level in 2018, against the 255,000 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) target for 2018, it said.

“Though up from 18% in 1994, only 21.7% and 29.9% of learners passed mathematics and science at 50% and above respectively in 2018. The number of learners writing physical science and mathematics has been declining from 192,618 and 265,810 in 2016 to 172,319 and 233 858 in 2018, respectively.”

“The shackle of Bantu education that black children and women should not be taught mathematics and science still casts a shadow over the education system,” it said.


Read: Regulatory body approves South Africa’s matric results

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Concern over South Africa’s matric maths marks