10 ways to improve South Africa’s education system

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that 70.7% of students who wrote the 2015 National Senior Certificate examinations passed.

Many people stated that the matric pass rate should not be celebrated, though, as it represents a watered-down qualification which is not respected in the workplace.

Equal Education highlighted that a large percentage of students also drop out before they write the matric exams.

The organization said the cohort matric pass rate – the percentage of learners in grade 2 who pass matric 11 years later – is 42.2%.

South Africa has a dumbed down school system

Another critic of the current matric examinations is University of the Free State vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen.

In a recent Sunday Times column, he said South Africa’s disregard for competence is illustrated by the way government policies have dumbed down the school system since the 1990s.

“We created a watered-down mathematics stream for those who, we were told, could not do maths,” he said.

“We gave legitimacy (and a university-entrance point) to life orientation when, in the past, guidance (or the lack thereof) had no consequences.”

He said passing levels in school subjects are pegged at 30% and 40%, and that we created an exit level at Grade 9 because more than half the children who start Grade 1 do not make it past matric.

“We used to add marks to the grades of non-native speakers writing in English. More than one study has pointed to the inflation of grades, no doubt to make the national pass percentage look good.”

How to improve the education system

Jansen provided 10 ways to improve the South African education system in a Facebook post titled: Ten things I would do first if I were your Minister of Schools

  1. Stop the circus: no more announcement of matric results. I would instead announce the results of our investment in pre-school education programmes – how well prepared are our pre-schoolers for formal education?
  2. Fire all the deployed officials in provinces and districts. Officials welcome to re-apply on the basis of proven competence – party loyalties will be irrelevant.
  3. Replace fired officials with coaches and mentors (not inspectors) for every teacher and principal who work alongside staff as colleagues. These coaches and mentors must have a track record of running successful schools or achieving high results in the subjects for which they are responsible.
  4. Appoint an ombudsperson for every SGB to root out corruption in teacher and head appointments.
  5. Ensure every child has a textbook in every subject within three months, or somebody loses his job.
  6. Abolish the ANAs with immediate effect and assess every three years in the most vulnerable schools only.
  7. Increase the salaries of teachers on one criterion only – that the children in the poorest schools show steady increases in achievement scores.
  8. No teacher will be hired with less than a Master’s degree in teaching by 2018 and this status will be reflected in salary scales highly competitive with the private sector.
  9. Teachers will show up in every class every day and teach. Two strikes (misses) and you’re out unless there is a certified medical certificate which can be cross-checked for dishonesty.
  10. Teachers given three months off every three years to improve their professional qualifications.

More on education

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Matric pass rate drops to 70.7%

South Africa’s real matric pass rate is shocking

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10 ways to improve South Africa’s education system