From the research programme on Education and Skills Development, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
1. At first glance we are surprised at the fairly dramatic increase in the pass rate from 2009. We need to understand the trend of the pass rates over time. From 2001 to 2002 we observed a dramatic increase from 62% to 69% in pass rates. Up to 2004 there were increases up to 71% pass rate. Thereafter there were decreases of 2 to 3% each year and in 2007 the pass rate was 65.2%. In 2008 the new National Curriculum Statements for secondary schools were introduced and with the curriculum changes there were further decreases in the matric pass rates in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 the pass rate increased by 6.8% to 67.5%.
2. Given that a large number of candidates wrote the exam, we generally expected changes of 2 to 3%. We definitely need to search for reasons for the dramatic increases in 2010 and will undertake further analysis when the matric technical report is released.
At this early stage we consider three reasons for the improvement: Firstly, the National Senior Certificate (NSC) has been implemented for three years and teachers are now familiar with, and better able to teach to the new curriculum. In addition there exist many more exemplar papers which inform teachers and students about what to expect in the examination.
Secondly, education is accepted as a societal responsibility and the demonstrated educational outcomes is a result of inputs from the school, home and community. With education identified as one of the top priorities there has been greater societal involvement in education and the department of education has initiated many programmes to improve educational outcomes.
Thirdly, could the success and euphoria around the Soccer World Cup have removed some psychological barriers to successful learning making a number of learners develop a “hunger for success” believing that they can work hard, learn and succeed? During the public servants strike, students took responsibility for their own learning and worked in groups to prepare for the examinations. Given the above we would then expect the pass rate to the closer to the pass rates of 2006 and 2007, rather than 2008 and 2009. If this dramatic increase and the proposed explanations are true reflections of the current South African education system then the system has indeed turned the corner and we should expect further improvement in the coming years.
3. We are, however, concerned with the poor performance in mathematics. Mathematics learning requires skilled and specialist teachers who provide quality inputs in the classroom. Perhaps the poor performance in mathematics is due to the reduced instructional time during 2010.
4. In August 2011, the HSRC will administer the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study to grade 9 students and this will provide a trend analysis with TIMSS 2002 results and a comparison of our mathematics and science performance with 50 other countries.
Researchers: Dr Vijay Reddy, Dr Kivilu Kivilu, Mr Michael Cosser, Dr George Frempong.