January, 2013 by Sirius Centauri
South Africa’s Matric Requirements – Creating A Substandard Mindset
Ironic as it may seem, it’s not surprising that the gradual increase in the matric pass rate for the past four years has been met with scathing criticism by countless South Africans, but never before has opposition been more fierce than when the announcement was made in Johannesburg this week. Social networks were abuzz with mixed reaction as journos began spreading the word through Twitter and other social media; with some barely managing to remain objective. Some educators seemed terribly unsure as to whether or not they should celebrate the matric pass rate of 2012.
It is critical for a nation to applaud achievement, congratulate its teachers and learners for the hard work they put in, but equally important is the need to uplift those left behind. Moving forward, there’s a need to thoroughly evaluate the challenges they face for while there are many, almost all are a byproduct of a regressive educational system.
There hovers in the mind of many a learner, a plethora of grim conditions and conditioning – from unstable family dynamics to socio-economics, school mismanagement, lack of mental stimulation, limited access to information and in some instances, teaching. Among those involving teaching are labour strikes, absenteeism, inept communication and a lack of preparatory training. For a lot of learners, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds, failure is often an amalgamation of a few, if not all of these factors.
The latest global competitiveness report by the World Economic Forum places South Africa 133rd out of its list of 144 countries, in terms of quality education. It is puzzling that a nation like ours which spends about 20% of its overall expenditure on education, rates among the worst performers in terms of providing it, in good quality. Even compared to its neighbours like Zimbabwe and Namibia – two countries with far less resources; South Africa still ranks extremely low in both literacy and numeracy skills. Admittedly, with the average pass mark dropping ever so remarkably in recent years, it would be ignorant to expect an improvement of any kind.
Nonetheless, Basic Education Minister (shown above) Angie Motshekga was all bravado and of barely-concealed nervousness when she announced the matric result pass rate. It was as if she had found the cure for every ill our nation’s ever had. Even with discernible cracks in her department that have lead to plenty of scandals not limited to, non-delivery of textbooks, poor school infrastructure and maladministration, she still fails to take accountability.
Is it not this exact denialism of crises by heads of state that not so long ago saw South Africa’s HIV/Aids rates soar to shocking heights under the Thabo Mbeki era? Does it even matter to the minister, the president or cabinet that there is public outcry over the farce that is the matric pass rate ‘improvement’? If it does, then a lot of South Africans are not getting that particular message. Seemingly, Motshekga finds it far more important to quantify education rates, lower its standards, destroy young minds in the process; and get to prove a point.
Unfortunately, not only is there no point to prove, staging triumph fails to fool all of the people. It will take more than big figures to convince some South Africans that the pass rate is reflective of an efficient education system. Perhaps the starting point in an attempt to be convincing, should have been announcing the real pass rate statistics, based on vital analytical data such as the dropout rate from the time of secondary school enrollment until matric; as well as figures reflecting the private and public school pass rates accordingly. It’s not logical that these figures are omitted as they are both crucial for situational assessments and strategic planning going forward into the coming years.
The most common reason in a country like ours with such high unemployment rates for school-leaving is poverty. Learners are often forced out of the school system due to lack of resources and many of them, are also immediately forced to become breadwinners. If the education department cared to understand these basics, they would be able to provide the necessary support and if not, hand these young people over to funding NGOs who would recommend sponsored training and possibly, fund their tertiary education if that’s the route they want to take. Another reason children drop out is of course, cheer mischief and irresponsible behavior, but even so; some of them could still be rehabilitated and skilled. It is also important to note that not all children belong in tertiary institutions. With such minimal mental challenge as is offered by our high school curriculum in public schools, it should come as no surprise that some of the more practically minded learners who drop out of school, do so because they find the entire learning process mediocre and tedious.
It should be the duty of (and perhaps even a collaborative effort between) basic and higher education departments to launch programmes that cater for these learners. A realistic approach that acknowledges that tertiary education is not possible for all learners is critical and that too should be enforced at high school level. Would it not serve our educational and socio-economic needs well to incorporate career training as a mandatory subject at the start of secondary schooling until Grade 12? That way learners who have very little chance of making that transition due to lack of funds would be aware of their options and take advanced courses in sectors of self employment, thereby improving their lives and making a positive contribution to the economy.
Figures that outline the two types of education that South Africa provides – private and public school, should also be released and analysed. By comparing the two, a responsible and accountable government would want to identify how to bring the latter to the same level as the former, thus really fulfilling its stipulated mandate of providing equal education.
If the matric pass rate announcement neglected to mention that the class of 2012 ‘born frees’ is missing at least half of the learners it started with; why should you believe the following caption from the statement issued by the presidency dated January, 03, 2013?
The President added that it was now manifest that the decision by the current administration to separate education into two dedicated departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training respectively, had begun to bear fruit.
Instead of acknowledging the core areas of our educational downgrading, officials are delusional and adamant at patting each other’s backs in congratulatory statements. This level of indifference towards the nation’s youth, is the reason why poverty, indignity and inequality continue to plague South Africa. The resultant lack of productivity and skill robs us and our children of ever seeing ‘Economic Freedom In Our Lifetime’…This slogan made famous by the infamous ANC Youth League proves both appropriate and ironic when one considers its mother body’s political rethoric. It is an unsympathetic reminder that the plight of the majority of our people, is driven by the desire for political gain. Songs are sung, slogans shouted in proud and imposing tones, while millions continue to live below the breadline, helpless and blinded by the sensationalism of it all.
The ‘improved’ 76.9 percent pass rate that the education ministry has boisterously dangled in the public eye is impressive at only one level – its face value. Below is the core of the outrage…this shows how the education system is failing us. Out of 100%, this is what it takes to obtain a matric certificate in South Africa today:
• 40% in one of the compulsory official languages at home language level
• 30% in the other required official language ,on at least first additional language level
• 30% in mathematical literacy or mathematics
• 40% in life orientation
• 40% in one of the remaining three subjects,
• 30% in at least two others subjects.
That these below-average marks are the minimum required in order to obtain the National Senior Certificate, is telling. Our education system is characterized by a grossly lenient testing system, designed to propagate a classicist and capitalist status quo.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.” -Steve Biko
By setting such a low benchmark for education and basically reintroducing similar principles of arrested development as those fundamental to ‘Bantu Education’ of the apartheid regime, the state not only creates a generation of dis-empowered, subordinate and non-progressive youth, but subsequently develops a nation of men and women whose lack of high aspirations, keeps her eternally dependent on state practice – irrespective of its crudeness or inefficiencies. It is an imperialist method by which the rich-poor gap is broadened, and by which inequality makes the youth feel and believe they are worth nothing more than lifelong commitment to peasantry. This, we call mental slavery!