A ministerial task team has concluded that South Africa has one of the poorest-performing school education systems in the world.
The ministerial task team submitted its 188-page report noting the quality of the National Senior Certificate in South Africa.
It recommended that the education department consider making mathematics a compulsory subject, while it was also urged to increase the minimal pass rate, which currently stands at 30%.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she would take into consideration recommendations made in the report.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday (4 August) welcomed Motshekga’s comments and said it applauded her decision to publicly release the resulting report in its entirety.
The DA said it was concerned by the findings of the report which said: “there is no escaping the conclusion that South Africa has one of the poorest performing school education systems in the world”.
The political party underlined some of the findings within the report:
- Mathematics exams are focusing on lower order questions. This must change, with a greater emphasis on questions requiring greater cognitive demand. The problem lies in the classroom, and predominantly with the teacher. All schools must offer maths and be properly resourced to do so. Maths teachers must be comprehensively tested, and placed to teach the grade or area of maths in which they are competent.
- Mathematical Literacy standards should be improved. The subject should be precluded, by policy, from being a subject choice for learners taking subjects such as physical sciences, accounting or economics.
- Language ability is poor. Learners are largely semi-lingual.
- Learners who exit at Grade 12 with the Technical NSC are seen as neither ‘work ready’ nor eligible to enter higher education institutions. South Africa needs to strengthen vocational and vocationally-orientated education and expose our learners to vocational possibilities. The challenge is to build respect for vocational education.
- That an exit certificate for Grade 9 be created to provide learners with exit credentials from school should they choose to leave, and entry credentials for whatever pathway and destination they aspire to.
- The quality of school-based assessment must be improved.
- Examiners in certain subjects do not have adequate capacity, resulting in very poor quality items and external moderators sometimes have to assist with the refinement of items just to get the paper ready in time.
- Markers must be tested rigorously and appointed on merit. Competence tests must be applied. (The report notes that only the Western Cape selected its markers in 2013 based upon competency tests and was possibly disadvantaged by the strictness of the marking in its final overall results.) Currently this is the weakest link in the assessment process, apart from the setting of the papers.
- International benchmarking has found that “the NSC was not yet at the level of the international equivalent qualifications being compared”, largely due to the high quota of low order questions in papers. The same finding has been made for a number of years.
- Pass requirements are not stringent enough to support further and higher education and training, and must be increased to include a pass mark of at least 50% in four subjects in order to study at a university.
The report stated that “So much depends on growing the economy that the entire national education and training system must engage the challenge with vigour, passion and wisdom,” the DA said.
“The Minister now has, in black and white, a highly-informed opinion that places our National Senior Certificate below par, both internationally, and with respect to what South Africa, and every South African, particularly the young, need in order to grow,” the political party said.