EC matric pass rate of 65.4% an improvement, not an achievement – Edmund van Vuuren MPL

Edmund van Vuuren (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Education

The Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape congratulates all 43 777 successful matriculants out of a total of 66 935 that sat for the National SC examination for 2014.

The province’s overall pass mark of 65.4% is an improvement on the 64.9% achieved in the previous year.   This improvement of 0.5 % is encouraging although not enough to be seen as an achievement.  The Eastern Cape is still one of two provinces under the 70% radar, and once again last in the class while other provinces have set the benchmark.

The Eastern Cape is still under performing with five of its 23 districts namely Mount Frere 55.1%, Fort Beaufort 56.9%, Butterworth 57.1%, Dutywa 57.9% and Queenstown 58% obtaining a pass rate of 50-59%.

We need to commend the Department of Education for having improved on its quality passes.  A total of 13 435 of the learners have achieved a Bachelor Pass which represents 20.1% of the total number of learners that sat for the 2014 exams.  This is an improvement of 1.1% on the 19% of the previous year.

This quality of passes is an upward trajectory that should be acknowledged.   It is also obvious that the programmes implemented by the department, like Saturday- and Winter school classes as well as supplements in newspapers have yielded results, although not at the level as expected.

What is most disconcerting is the dropout rate of learners within the system.  Initially 68 548 learners were enrolled in Grade 12 in 2014 but only 66 935 wrote the exams.  What happened to the other 1 613 learners that were in Grade 12 but did not sit the exams?

In 2012, 139 323 learners were enrolled in Grade 10, with only 68 548 reaching Grade 12 in 2014, which represents a retention rate of only 49.2%.  This is unacceptable and we sincerely hope that “culling” did not take place in order to improve the results of individual schools.  These high repetitions must be prevented and we demand that the department put interventions in place that will streamline repetitions within our schools.

The DA will most certainly ask some pertinent questions as to what happened to the other 70 775 learners that did not reach Grade 12 and the reasons for non-progression of these learners.

More worrying however, is that 286 598 learners were enrolled in Grade 1 in 2003 in all public ordinary schools.  But only 68 548 made it to Grade 12 in 2014.  What happened to the other 218 050 learners.  How many of them are still in the system and what interventions have been taken or will be taken to improve the retention rate of all our learners?

We believe that the following factors negated our goal of achieving the 70% pass mark and they are:

1.    More than 2000 vacancies that were not filled;

2.    The problem with the appointment of teachers in Afrikaans and Afikaans/English duel medium schools;

3.    The non-monitoring of curriculum the departmental officials due to a “lack of budget”;

4.     The non-adherence to the seven-hour school rule, where in a number of cases teachers leave schools early or arrive late or abscond from their responsibilities;

5.    The non-involvement of parents in their children’s scholastic career;

6.     The lack of leadership in certain schools where no permanent appointment of school managers have been made;

7.    The redeployment process that has not been completed;

8.    Overcrowding of classes; and

9.    In certain cases, the displacement of school managers without adequate reasons given.

For the Eastern Cape Province to succeed in the long term, educators must pay unforgiving and meticulous attention to the detail of educational quality. Principals should be curriculum leaders overseeing effective implementation of syllabi. They should be made to sign performance agreements; socio-economic conditions should not be a precursor for bad performances.

Despite these many challenges, the DA in the Eastern Cape acknowledges the need to celebrate with disadvantaged schools with limited infrastructure and resources, that managed to produce outstanding results. We acknowledge the reason to congratulate individual learners who, through sheer hard work and dedication have excelled, and we acknowledge those parents who sacrificed all to assist their children in getting the best education they could.

This is also reason to applaud dedicated teachers and also those departmental officials that went that extra mile in assisting our learners.

To those learners who did not manage to pass in 2014 or did not pass with the necessary quality, now is not the time to despair, but to redouble your efforts with persistence and hard work.

Although there may be obstacles that seem insurmountable to overcome, you must persevere as there are many options open to improve your results.

Once again, good luck to all achievers.