AfriForum congratulates everyone who passed the matric exam of 2018, as well as the dedicated teachers who assisted them faithfully. At the same time, the official pass rate of 2018, namely 78,2%, is noted with grave concern, as it does not portray the true condition of the South African education system.
Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, states that according to a report by the Department of Basic Education, 1 141 731 learners were in grade one in public schools in 2007 and 29 592 in independent schools. According to statistics released by the Minister of Basic Education today, only 790 843 registered for the NSC examinations in 2018. This means that more than 30% of the 2007 group did not even reach the exams within twelve years, let alone pass matric.
“When matric results are celebrated annually, the Department focuses on the achievements of some individuals and schools. The youngsters who disappear from the system however are left stranded without skills which enable them to play a significant role in the highly competitive labour market. Even the Minister’s references to learners who were assisted in repeating matric are not reassuring, as it is alarming to think that young people were in the school system for so long before receiving significant help,” says Bailey.
“Furthermore, pass and admission requirements that are continually being lowered, as has been the case with admission requirements for tertiary education recently, create the impression that even the successful group has less and less to offer employers,” adds Bailey.
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Index, South Africa occupies the 114th position among 137 countries in respect of the quality of its higher education, and the 116th position regarding the quality of its primary education. The country’s poor economic growth rate and the unacceptably high official unemployment rate (27.5% in the third quarter of 2018) cannot improve if school-leavers entering the labour market are so poorly equipped.
Bailey emphasizes that the solution can be found in, among other things, an increased offer of mother-language education, rigorous action against ideologically driven polarising statements and actions (such as those of Gauteng’s MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi), more effective curriculum options, timely delivery of textbooks, preventing teacher unions from paralysing schools with labour action, creating more training opportunities for teachers, as well as addressing a lack of discipline among learners and teaching staff.
“The future depends on the quality of the country’s education system – not a cosmetic redistribution of property, or gymnastics with pass rates,” concludes Bailey.