The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has acknowledged that there were several factors and changes in the education system that may have contributed to a drop in the province’s overall matric pass rate. The final ratings for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams were revealed by Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga on Monday evening, with the Western Cape scoring 82.2%; a drop of 2.9% from the 85.1% rating achieved in 2013.
Amongst these contributing factors according to WCED MEC Debbie Schafer, was the introduction of the new Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) system, as well as the increased difficulty in a number of exams papers and subjects.
Other factors included the high percentage of learners pushed through to matric without meeting the grade 11 pass requirements; of which the province alone had 3000, as well as a reduction in ‘percentage concession’ for students not writing in their mother-tongue.
“There are a number of factors but having said that, I am never happy with a reduction of any sort. We will certainly be looking at all our results very carefully to see where we have done well, and where we maybe need to improve,” she said, suggesting plans would be put in place by the end of January to address the situation.
The release of results in the Western Cape was delayed by several hours in a bid to provide schools with the opportunity to analyze them prior to issuance to students. The delay drew equal praise and criticism from certain sectors, the later coming from the ANC amongst others. But Schafer insisted the practice was something of a tradition in the Cape, conducted by every government that had ruled over the last 10 years.
“The reason why we do this is because we don’t want our learner to find out in the newspaper if they haven’t passed. We want to enable them to come to the schools where they can receive support, and where people can be identified for counseling if they are really traumatized,” she explained.
This would also afford principals the chance to go through the results, ensuring there were no major discrepancies.
Newspaper reports have suggested that only about 40% of those who started grade 1 in 2003 managed to sit for the final matric exams this past year, indicating a shocking dropout rate in the country’s education system. Despite those statistics, Schafer said the WCED were doing its utmost to ensure it retained as many students as possible. Taking into account dropout figures from Grade 10 onwards, she said the Western Cape had the highest retention rate amongst all 9 provinces, retaining about 63% of learners.
“If we look at those figures combined with the actual pass rate percentage, we are in fact number 1 in having the most learners who were in grade 10 two years ago, who have managed to pass matric. On that basis we are number 1,” she stated.
In regards to the cheating scandal that has rocked this year’s results release; she noted a solitary case in the province, which was currently under investigation.
“We will not tolerate this kind of behavior at all. We will take whatever steps are necessary to deal with it,” she said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)