The Running Commentary

Hands up if you know what your GP scored for anatomy…..

My title may be a little misleading, but my point will become clearer as you move through this post.

Today marked the release of the Matric results for 2011.  Worthy accolades are due all of the candidates who successfully passed the exam requirements as laid down by the Department of Education. Well done to all of you, from the Cape Town guy who ended top of the class nationally, to the final placed student who just “managed” to get through, you made it. Nobody can take this achievement away from you.

As is typical around this time the news is dominated with two main points, the first is that each province takes pride in naming their greats, the learners who got 8 A’s (who the heck is normal and does 8 subjects!) The second item is the number of people who come out to decry the results, indicating that the standard is to low. It is this set of people that I would seek to speak to through this post.

Whether or not you agree with the benchmark required to pass a subject, or not, this is the level that has been set by the Department of Education.  This is not the mark than any one student is aiming for when they set out to write the exam.  The argument made, more often than not, is that because the requirement is set so low, it makes it easy for the learner to succeed.  This is absolutely true and absolutely wrong in equal amounts. This argument is true for those students who do the bare minimum in order to succeed. It completely ignores the circumstances surrounding those learners, who’s daily battle is not only education, but a myriad of other issues.

Most of these detractors, also come from a different set of educational norms and upbringing. Remembering that in the past we had two levels (Higher Grade and Standard Grade), these no longer exist and therefore it is almost impossible to overlay their past achievements, with those of the learners today. The department has had to take all of these into consideration when setting the standards or requirements. Let me not get started on the inequality of resources which I think brings about the biggest inequality.

So let’s get down to the brass tacks of my post. Do I agree that the requirements are too low, Yes. I think that any Department of Education that is satisfied that a 30% mark is a pass mark needs some serious introspection, however there are many factors that must also weigh in.

The requirements to pass are just that “requirements”, the aim of any typical learner is to exceed these.  The aim of the educators should be to ensure that learners exceed these minimum requirements, so that they have the best chance to go onto further education as possible.  The successful fulfilment of this over time would see a natural increase in the minimum “requirements”

One of the biggest factors overlooked by many is that we are still teaching entire generations about the need to succeed at schooling.  They are coming off the back of parents who did not have access to proper education.  One of the ways you do this is to instil pride, so at the risk of sounding compromising, I believe that setting a bench mark that is achievable is not a bad thing.

“Allowing” a learner to have their matric pass on their CV is not a bad thing at all. In time I am convinced that the benchmark will move higher and these debates will centre around whether the requirement should be 60%. Until this time is reached I do think that we need to spend more of our time on how we can help our learners (our children in many cases) do better. After all we shouldn’t be happy to leave our children achieving the bare minimum, and we shouldn’t be abdicating this responsibility to the Department of Education.

And finally, next time you are in to see your GP, take a close look as the wall. What you will see is a piece of paper, no individual marks, only a qualification.  Makes you think doesn’t it?

ANCDADepartment of EducationeducationeducatorslearnersmatricSenior CertificateSouth Africasuccessteachersteaching

Mike • January 5, 2012

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