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Matric pass requirements under review

Written by Samona Naidu and SAnews
A massive revamp to the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations is on the cards following a ministerial task team report on the quality of the matric pass requirements.

The 188-page report, which investigates the pass requirements for the matric certificate, highlighted the improved progress of the exams over the years, yet also made recommendations to address its serious shortfalls.Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has confirmed that there will be a revamp of the National Senior Certificate examinations following the release of the ministerial task team report on the quality of matric pass requirements.

The report was recently handed over to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga who had set up the task team earlier this year to sift out challenges and complaints over the pass requirements. The report is currently being reviewed by the Minister and provincial education heads.

The report’s major recommendations include making mathematics compulsory at all schools, raising the average pass grade from the current 33 per cent to a newly proposed 40 per cent, removing life orientation as a prerequisite subject, introducing an exit certificate for Grade 9 learners, investigating the standard of African languages as a first and home language, and improving the selection criteria of exam markers.

One of the reasons for increasing the average pass grade is to improve learners’ chances of being better prepared to pursue tertiary studies or find suitable employment once they complete their schooling.

The report highlighted that if maths was made compulsory, it would have to be phased in over a few years to avoid a decline in overall enrolments in science-related subjects. One of the key solutions mentioned in the report was that well-trained, fully professional teachers were ultimately the key to the development of the education system.

To further boost mathematics and science as an integral part of the curriculum, the department has also rolled out teacher training workshops to further teachers' skills and competencies.

The report also made mention that learners who did not meet the pass grade for their sixth subject would still be allowed to pass their matric exams. This would be done on the condition that all exam requirements have been met and that there is evidence of the School-based Assessment that the subject has been completed by the learner.

The South African Council for Educators chief executive officer Rej Brijraj has applauded the ministerial task team for the great work on the report.

Brijraj welcomed the recommendation regarding the removal of life orientation as a subject from the pass requirements, yet added that it should remain in other grades to help learners develop and understand the important values and lessons it teaches.

Regarding mathematics being made a compulsory subject, Brijraj added, “We need to focus on the content knowledge of our teachers. Research over the last 10 years has shown that most mathematics teachers, for example do not have the content knowledge needed to impart to their students even a basic understanding of the subject."

Brijraj also welcomed the improvement on the pass requirements for entry to higher certificate study. “Our learners should be persuaded to work much harder,” he said. He added that the new proposed pass rate will also assist in reducing the number of dropouts at tertiary institutions.