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Matric exams are easy – and mean very little: Jansen

Matric exams are easy – and mean very little: Jansen

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.


Read: 2016 matric pass rate climbs to 72.5%


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  • Charl van der Merwe

    So if you can’t even pass it you probably aren’t competent enough for 80% of the available work out there?

    • Francie van Rensburg

      Do not forget that a great number of the teachers passed matric with about the same level of performance.
      Thanks prof., for being honest about the situation – now, what can be done about it?

  • Konstabel Koekemoer

    At least someone who says it as it is. We have seen the results of hiring incompetent people in government departments but now many private companies like the big banks are also becoming dysfunctional due to having large numbers of basly educated staff who don’t really understand how their own products.

    • The BOSS

      Top top top top comment. You have no idea how many people are sitting in offices and don’t know what they’re doing. Most don’t even know the addresses of the places they work at. This matric doesn’t teach people to be thinkers, its just to make people sit in offices and do what they’re told without questioning, no input no ideas brought into the work environment nothing. I wish everyone would see your comments and that employers start seeing it from your perspective. People simply get hired because they have a SA 13 digit valid ID

  • Mavis Vermicast

    Eish, the ejucshun sistim she is broken

  • Basson

    Easy to partake in the #1 national sport, i.e. to criticize.
    As a parent of a child who just wrote NSC, and who have seen some of the exam papers I can honestly say that languages, maths and science were challenging, and it was not easy to attain good marks. (The standard is actually quite a bit higher than when I wrote matric in the 80’s.) The kids still had to put in a lot of hard work.
    (I CHALLENGE anyone of you to do the papers, and to see what the results would be 🙂 )

    • FracturedButWhole

      Jansen did say that passing maths is worth bragging about, he should have thrown science in there too.

      I think he was more taking a dig at the other subjects such as maths lit. Having seen a few maths literacy papers I would take you up on that challenge.

      • Mossel

        That nickname though… new South Park game!

    • Jibbers Crabst

      Yeah sure, bring it on, but I should also be allowed 6 months to at least familiarize myself with the curriculum…

    • Daniel

      My Math’s and Physics papers in 2012 were a lot easier than my brothers from 2007. However I still failed mainly because I didnt have teachers in either subject and a principle who told us that its no longer a school but a business, so yeah. Went back in 2014, took Geography and Maths Lit and I was stumped by how stupid some students were.

      In a matric class, one student couldn’t understand why 5/10 is equal to 1/2. I spent a total of 6 days of the entire school year in that class and still passed with the highest mark of 80%, of which I never once studied for.

    • macheen

      Sorry Basson, but the exams are easy. My cousin from Germany did the same Maths in grade 11 that I did at Uni for Engineering Maths (I studied BSc Mechanical Engineering)… What does this boil down to? Well it shows that we have a very low standard of education… and that this has a ripple effect at Uni, where an additional semester or two is spent on studying “old school” topics. It is a very sad period for SA education.

      • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

        Was Engineering Math offered for Mechanical Engineering students properly decolonized?

        • macheen

          What do you mean, properly decolonized?

          • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

            macheen: So far no one could give an explanation what this phrase means, especially as regards math and science, so I was hoping that perhaps some of you more recent graduates can supply it.

          • macheen

            This is a topic bought up by a protesting student at UCT. I have not heard any news since and I think rightly so, because decolonizing education is a bit absurd, that would mean we would probably lose international recognition, because our degree course structures are based on American (which is adapted from British) and British education. So unless we adopt eg. Russian or Chinese educational standards, I doubt it would happen (or create our own). And what would be the point? It is a complete waste of money and effort for another downgrade in educational standards… For what? Just to say to the world that we have de-colonialized education? A complete joke, I can’t believe someone would even bring that up – it just goes to show what type of people get accepted into tertiary institutions these days. That is another problem. People that do not have the capacity to think are accepted into University with financial support and end up failing, why do that in the first place? Wasted expenditure and students are in their mid twenties with massive student loan debts, so of course they will strike for lower fees and easier education – they have no see-able alternative. It is scary snowball effect.

          • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

            macheen. Thank you. Except that. the Chinese and Russian educational standards are much better than you think.
            I actually like the American standard which contain no matric, but there is a nationwide used exam which everyone who wishes to study further must undergo.

          • macheen

            Yes, and that American system is similar to what the Germans also do too. But the problem that we would face in this country is that too many youngsters would be looking for work at once, and with the high unemployment rate we can see that there is little work to be found. I think this system can only be applied to well developed countries. But I must say that it is a system that makes more sense, as it more flexible in terms of career paths and it does help people that do not enjoy studying to find a place in the world, comfortably. More investment by the corporate sector would be required for training schemes. But thanks, I know that the Chinese and Russians take the Sciences very seriously, they have done great work and especially because of the Communism regime, they dedicate more human resources and focus alot more on alternative energy.

    • Pielkop

      Lol Basson it will be challenging because the curriculum has changed… I saw an engineer battling to fry an egg, not because it was difficult, just that it was different…

  • bengine

    Smart man.

    Unfortunately what he is saying is that those that “passed” on 30% are not eligible for anything other than potentially joining the ANCYL

    • Aristophanes

      Saddest thing of all is he’s packing his bags and heading off for the states. Such a loss.

      • Wurnman

        or gain, depending on your geographic…

  • setzor

    If only we had more intellectuals like this man

  • wokes

    Joke of the day trying to obtain a tel nr. of N1 City hospital from this lady dialing 200 via MTN she asked me spell for me N1 City, wtf tomorrows leaders

  • wokes

    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”. – I REST MY CASE

  • wokes

    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 – SO EVERYONE IS WAISTING THEIR TIME AND EFFORT

  • Pielkop

    I see ANCYL getting more imbecile members that will go around using force in every situation that does not go their way. This is sad.. Clowns Motshega en all ANC are celebrating mediocre..

  • Swona

    When the president is a Zupta, cvnts like jansen get to keep their jobs

    • Aces_Low

      WTF are you on about? Do you even know what this man stands for? It’s because of people like Zuma and their policies and empty promises, that he is leaving the country.

      • Swona

        he’s an ossole… thanks for the info that he’s leaving

        • Aces_Low

          I see my comment is awaiting moderation and will probably not be posted. Here it is with the synonym for rectum censored: “Please explain.why he is an a&&£hoe? The fact that you have an opinion of.him and did not even know that he is leaving the country speaks volumes. It is the same sad, brainwashed attitude and outlook that the majority of.South Africans have.”

          • Swona

            and that’s why you’re moderated.
            he’s been an ossole from as far back as 2008 when he allowed and endorsed those animals who pissed on cleaners’ food.

          • Aces_Low

            Citation please for “allowed and endorsed”?

        • Aces_Low

          I see both my comments were removed. Silence the masses News24.

          • Aces_Low

            Your comments policy says it all.

  • Cheesy 3.0

    Looks like we are going to have to drag older people out of retirement to do the basic jobs because the current crop of Matric deadbeats is too dumb to tie their own shoelaces.

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