South Africa

Warning over South Africa’s matric marks

The matric class of 2021 has faced significant disruptions over the last two years, with more than half of teaching time lost in the Grade 11 year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, says Basic Education director-general Mathanzima Mweli.

Speaking at an Umalusi event on Thursday (6 January), Mweli said students have also had to grapple with several other issues while preparing for exams including load shedding, a new curriculum, and the psychological impact of losing loved ones during the pandemic.

“The crucially important foundation that Grade 11 work builds in preparation for Grade 12, was weakened. We will therefore see the deleterious effect of lost teaching time, in particular on those subjects that are time-intensive such as the languages, and subjects that are heavily dependent on language for utility, such as mathematical literacy,” he said.

Mweli said this class is also the first to be presented with the amendments to Section 4 of CAPS curriculum, which impacted 20 of the 67 subjects taken for matric.

Education experts have already warned that the difficult circumstances faced by matriculants are likely to result in a drop in marks. In 2020, the overall matric pass rate was 76.2%, substantially lower than the previous year’s 81.3%. It was also worse than 78.2% in 2018.

Speaking to Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, Basil Manuel, managing director of education union Naptosa, said that it was highly unlikely that 2021’s matric pass rate would be better than 2020, and that the best to hope for was a similar set of results.

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He highlighted many of the same factors as Mweli which led to the 2021 cohort being put at a distinct disadvantage compared to previous years.

Largest cohort ever

A total of 733,746 full-time students registered to write the 2021 NSC examination, the largest full-time cohort over the last few years. A total of 123,487 more full-time candidates and 46,942 part-time candidates registered to write the examination.

Of the candidates who registered for the examination, 700,604 wrote the examination, which reflects the lowest percentage of “no shows” (4.5%), over the last few years.

“The increase in the number of full-time candidates can be attributed to a number of factors and one of the key factors is the change in the assessment regime, in Grade 10 and 11, which was prompted by the need to create maximum time for teaching and learning,” Mweli said.

He added that the school-based assessment in Grade 11 was increased from 25% to 60% and examinations were replaced by controlled tests.

“Hence, the change in assessment practices resulted in a different outcome. These learners would therefore have written their first fully-fledged examination in their Grade 12 year, which was part of the preparatory examination.”

Mweli said one of the purposes of standardisation is to ensure fairness from year to year and the disadvantages suffered by the class of 2021 cannot be ignored, as part of ‘our social justice obligations’.

The national matric results for learners in public schools are expected to be announced on 20 January 2021 by Basic education minister Angie Motshekga, with individual results to be made available online at schools and electronically on 21 January 2021.

Read: South Africa extends student funding deadline for 2022 – here’s how to apply

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