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Basic Education: Working towards excellence

Written by Allison Cooper
The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga says the implementation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) has raised the bar and brought quality and efficiency into the education system.

CAPS replaced Outcomes-based Education (OBE). In 2014, the class of 2014 wrote the CAPS-aligned examination for the first time and achieved a pass rate of 75.8 per cent. The CAPS curriculum was phased in during 2012 (Grade 10), 2013 (Grade 11) and 2014 (Grade 12).

Motshekga is confident that CAPS is a game changer.

“What gives me great hope and confidence is that prominent educationists in the country reviewed the pass requirements and they agreed that we should keep the curriculum for at least 10 years.”

Her deputy Enver Surty agrees with her. “The CAPS examination results tell us that there are huge systemic changes taking place. Not one district across the country performed under 50 per cent.

A quality curriculum, despite rollout challenges Like many other new systems, the CAPS rollout, had its challenges.

“Despite this, I am confident that we are on a good trajectory as we move forward as a country,” says Motshekga.

She explains that independent and credible South Africans have assessed the system.

“So when we say it’s a quality curriculum, we are being honest. It’s the same with the exam papers, they are set and moderated externally,” she says.

She also stressed that the implementation of national plans and policies must take place on the ground in each province.

“Success comes from inside each school. Those that have good improvement plans and get their teachers, learners and parents involved will succeed,” she says.

The migration challenge

Another challenge highlighted was that of people migrating to provinces that historically have better resources, more highly skilled educators and a higher pass rate.

“Urbanisation is a reality that we have to deal with and socio-economic conditions affect learners. In the Eastern Cape, for example, if we look at the deep rural areas, it’s not only hard to teach there, it’s hard to reach there,” said Surty.

Despite these challenges, a positive outcome from the class of 2014’s examination results is the number of distinctions obtained from Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools when compared to those from Quintile 4 and 5 schools in the past.

The Quintile system is the classification of schools according to economic profiles of communities. Quintile 5 schools are schools based in more affluent communities, where parents can afford to pay for fees and books and are able to support the system via forming governing bodies. Quintile 1 schools are located within the poorest and deep rural communities where parents cannot afford to pay school fees.

“The distinction results from the lower Quintile schools means that we are contributing positively and meaningfully. We have not yet bridged the gap, but we have narrowed the gap between the deep rural and the urban, between the poorer community schools and the more affluent,” he added.

Provincial pass rates

In terms of the class of 2014’s pass rate, five provinces showed a decline and four showed an increase.

Gauteng took top honours with a pass rate of 84.7 per cent, which is slightly lower than its 2013 pass rate. Gauteng was followed by the North West (84.6 per cent); Free State (82.8 per cent); Western Cape (82.2 per cent); Mpumalanga (79 per cent); Northern Cape (76.4 per cent); Limpopo (72.9 per cent); KwaZulu- Natal (69.7 per cent) and the Eastern Cape (65.4 per cent).

Three of the top districts are located in Gauteng, whilst the fourth is shared with the Western Cape.

Raising the bar

Motshekga emphasises, “We cannot postpone the importance of raising the bar in the basic education sector. The journey has commenced in earnest.”

The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, uMalusi, which plays a critical role in protecting the integrity of the NSC examination has, after rigorous verification of all examination processes, declared the 2014 NSC examinations as free, fair and credible.

This achievement is attributed to the unwavering commitment demonstrated by examination officials at the department, across the nine provinces.

“The benefits of CAPS in the long-term will out-live our generation of leaders and managers in the sector. We have learnt from this process which will propel us to greater heights when it comes to improving learning outcomes,” Motshekga concludes.