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Education system is ‘highly inefficient’: Prof. Fataar

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Basic Education minister, Angie Motshekga’s announcement of the National Senior Certificate pass rate for 2015 has yielded mixed responses despite a notable decline. Over 800,000 candidates wrote the matric exams last year, marking the largest group to do so since 1994.

Positively, 2015 has seen the country’s education system score it’s highest number of bachelors passes to date. However the overall pass rate has dropped from 75.8% in 2014 to 70.7% this time around. The decline has been blamed on a record number of ‘progressed learners’ sitting the 2015 exams, as well as higher standard of exam papers.

Progressed learners are deemed as students who have failed grade 11 twice, but are promoted to grade 12 despite failing to meet the pass requirements. According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), progressed learners accounted for around 4% of the decrease.

Prof. Aslam Fataar, vice dean of the education faculty at Stellenbosch University, explained that the many schools within the education system were operating on a basis of culling poor performing students before they reached matric, this so as to improve the schools overall pass percentage. In addition, those who failed grade 11 were also being discouraged from continuing their final year of schooling.

“66 000 of our students who wrote the matric examination (in 2015) were progressed learners, 35% of whom passed. What that means is that this has had a fairly substantial impact on the pass rate.

“What I do want to know is who these students are, what subjects were they enrolled in, how they have passed and so on. There is a lot of investigation that still needs to be done on this phenomenon of progressed learners,” he stated.

Fataar also said the cohort matric pass rate, which amounted to 42%, need be taken into contact as well. The cohort pass rate assesses the number of students who successfully made it through the system from grade 2 towards finishing their basic education this year. Fataar said the statistic showed the country’s schooling system was in fact highly inefficient.

“What is very important about this drop out and retention problem is that it accelerates at grade 10 and 11. Why is that so? It is because the system becomes most inefficient during those grades.

Because schools do not want to be categorised as under performing, who are then seen and treated by the department in a particular light, that is where the culling starts,” he stated.


While much emphasis has been placed on the statistical aspect of the pass rate decline, the situation is likely to be emotionally taxing on students who discover that they have stumbled at the final hurdle of their schooling career.

Life Coach, Patricia Manshon said it was likely that many of these students would enter into a state of depression; hence it it was important that parents, family and friends rally around and support them.

“Parents should rally around their children to know how they’re feeling, and say that look, it’s not the end of the world.”

She added that such support should not be limited to those who failed, but all student whose results faired lower than their expectations. depression was also prevalent in cases where students failed to score the marks needed to achieve entrance to a tertiary institution.

“All is not lost; your results are not you. I think the important thing is for those closest to you (to provide support).

“They don’t need to ask questions, they don’t need to say anything, just be there for the child. If he/she wants to speak, they will speak,” she stressed.

Those in need of counselling may contact the Gender Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC), which has been made available to matric students and parents, via the toll free number 0800 428 428. Alternatively you can request a social worker by dialing *120*7867#. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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