Struggling Grade 11 pupils pushed through to the class of 2017 might be able write their matric examination over two years. A proposal to allow “progressed” pupils – those who failed Grade 11 twice but were nevertheless promoted to Grade 12 – to write the first half of their examination in December and the remainder the following June appeared in the newly gazetted draft amended policy on the conduct, administration and management of the senior certificate.
The public have 21 days from June 3 to comment.
From next year, only struggling pupils who attend school regularly, pass four subjects or more, and complete all their assessments will be allowed to split exam papers.
“We piloted it last year but there was no uniformity in terms of its application. The uptake was also very low because it was late in the year.
“Those that did opt for it wrote half the exam last year and the supplementary exam this year,” Basic Education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said yesterday.
For the first time last year, thousands of pupils were progressed to matric – but nearly 60% of them failed the exam.
In September last year, the Council of Education Ministers said those who had not performed well in the June and September trial exams would be offered the option of focusing only on the subjects in which they were ready to write, and could deal with the remaining subjects this year.
The council agreed that if the modulated exam were to go ahead, pupils would have to meet certain criteria.
“We are now asking the public to tell us how they feel. We are trying to regulate this system. Without having criteria, all progressed learners will tell themselves that they can just relax and complete their matric over two years.
“If you look at the criteria, they force you to do your work. You will be given the opportunity to write over two years if you are not coping,” Mhlanga said.
He said completing matric over two years was a concept that even some department officials found foreign and questioned at first. But the department feels it will help pupils.
After pupils sit for the first part of the exam, they will enter the department’s Second Chance programme and get remedial assistance ahead of writing the remainder of their papers.
“They will be supported every step of the way,” Mhlanga said.
Equal Education general secretary Tshepo Motsepe said the policy could have benefits because thousands of pupils drop out of school in Grade 10 as a result of exam failure.
But Motsepe said the real problem could be traced to the foundation phases – grades 1 to 3.
“Our learners are struggling because for the first three years of schooling they remain three years behind. And that is a result of a foundation phase that has not picked up in terms of poor resources, untrained teachers and overcrowding in classes. By the time they get to Grade 10, they start struggling,” he said.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of S A president Basil Manuel said he was worried about the practicality of writing matric exams over two years.
“Writing matric over two years is odd. It does make sense that you need to create a means for children, as opposed to failing and never getting back to have a chance. But I am worried about the practicality.”
SA Democratic Teachers’ Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the plan put matric results ahead of pupils’ wellbeing.
“The union is concerned because this modulated system will affect the learner’s self-esteem because you have progressed them but after that you are saying: ‘No, you can’t progress’.”
“Instead of giving them the support they need, you are holding them back. This is just about managing the statistics rather than helping the learner,” he said.
Motsepe was also worried about pupils’ confidence.
“The department must explain what led to this policy shift.
“You don’t want a situation in which these learners are taunted as being academically non-deserving and weak.
“The department needs to reassure these learners and their parents that this is in the best interests of the child and in the best interests of the country.”[Source: Times Live]