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Beyond Matric

Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News

While thousands of South African matrics are still celebrating after hearing the news that they have passed, the emphasis has now turned to what awaits them in the future.

Questions have also been raised repeatedly over the past week over the quality of the matric examinations.

The National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA) is inexorable that the current education system is failing young people in preparing them to enter the formal job market.

NEASA views the latest matric results as a skewed reflection of learners’ ability to join the workforce. The main reason being; that the majority of them do not have the basic skills set that employers are looking for.

Research shows that the biggest challenge facing the school system is learners’ unsatisfactory language, comprehension and numeracy skills.

Last year only 2% of grade nines achieved more than 50% in numeracy skills and only 17% achieved more than 50% in an additional language subject.

This trend continues as learner’s proceeds to higher grades.

Recent studies have shown that only 50% of people with a matric certificate are employed.

“We have a situation in South Africa that in order to have an acceptable pass rate in matric we’re adapting to a lower standards.” NEASA CEO Gerhard Papenfus told Radio Islam.

“But it doesn’t help the children at all, said Papenfus. We have a situation that in order to get a matric certificate, you need 30% in three subjects and 40% in another three subjects…even in those circumstances, the marks has been adapted upwards to accommodate these kids. The end result of all this is that these matric certificates is not trusted at all.”

“We therefore agree with University of Free State vice chancellor Jonathan Jansen that the pass rate should be raised to 50% and not the current base of 30% in some subjects and 40 % in others,” Papenfus said.

In a general statement, Papenfus lays the blame on a trade union.

“Unfortunately we have a system here where the trade union, particular one trade union is really upsetting education, said Papenfus. Government doesn’t have the guts to take them on”

“Teachers aren’t properly trained, teachers are involved in political affairs. They’re not always present in the classroom, they are badly disciplined…and in everything I say there is the exception,” added Papenfus.

‘University entrance requires more than top grades’

Sakeena Suliman – Cii News | 21 January 2014/19 Rabi ul Awwal 1435

Many top achievers have been left despondent after their many distinctions have not earned them entrance into a university or even acceptance into their first choice of study.

But more preparation is required for university entrance especially with the high number of applicants and extreme limited spaces offered to first year applicants.

“At the moment, at the broader university level I have anything between 5000 and 5500 places for first years and I have got 45000 applications. In selected places like medicine we have about 250 places and we particularly have something like 7000 to 8000 applications so we’ve got far more places than applications and people find it difficult to understand why they’re not getting access, why when they meet the minimum criteria they’re not getting a place,” explained Professor Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor at Wits University on Cii Radio recently.

Universities are heavily over-subscribed in every single faculty not just the medical field. For every student accepted, nine are rejected. At least 15000 applicants qualify with the minimum qualifications and should be gaining access to tertiary education.

While matric performance holds 40% of the university’s entry points score and priority is given to those with the best academic results, 60% of one’s entry is based on the National Benchmark Test (40%) – conducted by all of the country’s universities – and the biographical questionnaire (20%). A holistic approach is taken in admitting the best mix of pupils.

While admission policies are often criticised, the system has to address national challenges and allow admission for a diverse range of students explained Habib.

“For instance we have point scores that are lower for African and coloured people and higher for whites and Indians and people see this as discriminatory, now while I can understand them thinking that we must also be mindful of the fact that our country has to have a diversity of doctors and our doctors and medical practitioners and professionals must come from all of our communities and we can’t simply have a situation where they come from just one of our communities.”

Even though the entry requirement is lowered for some does not mean the exit requirements aren’t maintained to ensure quality professional enter the working world. Interestingly, these policies are not particular to South Africa, but are used worldwide to release professionals from a variety of communities.

Policies have to take into account different levels of qualifications emerging from the different communities based on historical disparities. Rural schools do not have the capacity and the infrastructure that urban schools do and the vast majority that go to rural schools are African. Simply opening up access to model C schools to a wider array of people is not enough.

” Black people, African people in particular, have not had the privileges of an adequate educational system and therefore their performances at least in many cases seem much lower than communities which have had better access to educational facilities. Now in that context we have to compensate for that. Some people find that unfair but I can tell you that if we simply relied on grades then access to our universities would be very racialised.”

Despite the country making some inroads in the last 20 years in addressing racial disparities, more still needs to be done. Habib says the notion that a form of “reverse racism” has been implemented is false and shows a lack of understanding of the inequalities.

“The argument that Indian people have been discriminated against is absolutely, completely false because actually the Indian community has more access to universities than it’s ever had.”

The number of Indian students registered for medicine at Wits has increased by 5% in the last four years. Managing the competing priorities of racial inequalities and the issue of merit is complex.

Habib says the community that could claim “they are losing out” is the white community which is much larger than the Indian. Their medical admission has dropped by 4% since 2011. “Imagine, the white community is three times, perhaps four times the Indian community yet the Indian community has a bigger access to medical schools than the white community.”

“The Indian community has had phenomenal access over the last 20 years and it should be mindful of that and recognise that. And they should be mindful of the responsibility on the society and our institutions to be responsive to addressing our historical disparities because if we don’t do that then this constitution hasn’t benefitted anybody…”

In the meantime government has recognised the need for more options, such as colleges and vocational training colleges, for prospective students in the higher education system.

“We should be having a whole series of options. We have too few options for our children and I entirely agree that this is a tragedy and wastage of talent and we need to address it urgently.”

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