With Wednesday 4 January 2012 fast approaching, hundreds of thousands of 2011 matriculants are anxiously waiting for their final results to be revealed. Last year we predicted we’d see an increase in the overall matric pass-rate despite the disruptive public servant strike and it is therefore too much of a temptation to resist the urge to stick our neck out once more and see if we can call it right again this year. So, although part of this is fun, we must warn you if you’re still in holiday mode that most of this still makes for thoroughly depressing reading (except for the IkamvaYouth results of course which will make you smile).
We’ll start again then with two predictions for the 2011 matric results:
- The first prediction (and one we make with a reasonable degree of confidence based on 5 years of consistently good results) is that Ikamvanites will once again excel despite the incredible obstacles they encounter in their schooling careers. The IkamvaYouth Matric group will once again be an inspiring example of a group of township-based individuals taking their futures into their hands though hard work, collaboration, dedication and commitment. As a result, many more township school learners will access quality post-school opportunities and many more will return to IkamvaYouth as volunteers to help others do the same.
- The second prediction (and this is once again mostly a hunch) is that, at worst, the overall matric pass-rate will stay roughly the same but is likely to improve by a percentage point or two or more. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is that the department is getting better at teaching matriculants to write exams (the merits of which is highly debatable) but perhaps most significantly there are very nearly 50 000 fewer fulltime learners writing matric this year than last year. Yes, thats right, FIFTY THOUSAND!!! The mind boggles and it seems the best answer to the question of where these learners have disappeared to is, “Goodness knows”. Straight into thin air it would appear.
There is, however, one possible answer (albeit somewhat cynical) in that this is really a bit of a pattern. There is more than enough evidence in the township schools that IkamvaYouth works with to suggest that these schools routinely inflate their matric results by excluding learners from matric if it appears they are unlikely to pass their final exams. As a case in point: at School A, nearby our Gauteng IkamvaYouth branch, 400 learners are accepted into Grade 8 to begin their high school careers but only 134 learners make it to write their matric exams (and of these just over 50% pass each year). Or, worse, at School B, also very near our Gauteng branch, 350 learners start Grade 8 but only 90 learners make it to matric and of these only 62% pass each year.
Nationally, the situation is even worse. Approximately 1 million learners start Grade 1 around the country each year but only 512 000 full-time learners registered to write matric in 2011. So, even though the class of 2011 is likely to achieve close to a 70% matric pass rate, the real matric pass-rate is actually 38%. Now if that doesn’t spoil your holiday mood then nothing will. Or wait, we could also go further to consider the stupendous tertiary level drop-out rate (roughly 2 out of every 3 students fail to complete their degree) or the FET pass rate (between 10-12%) but the true magnitude of this would probably cause our brains to melt or explode. All of which is fuel for Jay Naidoo’s prediction of an SA “Egyptian moment“.
The bottom line is that in 2011 we have continued to shuffle deck-chairs while the titanic is sinking – no wait, SUNK – the SA schooling titanic has never ever actually been sea worthy and we’re doing ourselves a massive disservice to assume that it has (outside of former model-C or private schools of course). We really have to stop asking the salvage question that goes, “How do we fix education in South Africa?” and instead take a step further backwards and ask the desperately more urgent question “How do we make it fixable?” because right now it isn’t fixable and it isn’t working for 73% of South Africa’s youth.