UFS vice chancellor and rector, professor Jonathan Jansen has a message for 2016’s matrics: well done if you passed your exams – but remember that it means very little.
In an open letter the class of 2016, published on BusinessLive, Jansen extended his congratulations to matric learners who passed their exams, and encouraged those who failed to try again.
But his words carried a much harsher truth – warning matriculants that the standards of South African education are very low, and that even the top performers are probably not as smart as they think.
“Passing Grade 12 in South Africa is actually quite easy, and it means very little. The standards are low and the marks are adjusted upwards for most subjects,” Jansen said.
“Those of you with six or more distinctions are particularly vulnerable to self-deception because ‘smart’ means much more than conquering the rules of the examination game.
“Remember, the exams are rigged to make the weakest pupils pass, not to make the brightest pupils excel.”
More specifically, Jansen said that exams in South Africa are designed to compensate for the dysfunction in most schools, “because the politicians are too scared to confront those who hold hostage the potential of all our pupils”.
The only subject worth bragging about would be maths, he said, but the reality is that South Africa is one of the worst performers in maths in the world, and that the exam standards authority will tell students that maths literacy is just as hard as normal maths.
“Then you know that school education is in shallow waters,” Jansen said.
The academic appealed to the class of 2016 to go to university with a different mind set, and to not engage in the same type of violent and disruptive protests seen in 2015 and 2016, carried out by Fees Must Fall students.
He said the violent minority leading the charge was an example of the “mis-education of young people processed through the sausage machine of South African schools”, and encouraged new students to achieve the goals of access and inclusion another way.
“Resist the temptation of here-and-now thinking. Focus on what you will build up, not what you will break down. Make your own decisions and resist, at all costs, the temptation to follow a crowd,” Jansen wrote.
You can read the full letter here.