On the front page of The Times is 18 year-old Gareth David Mogambery who – standing alongside Minister Angie Motshekga – has passed matric with eight distinctions. Four hundred killometres from where a beaming Gareth stands, Nokukhanya Radebe, Lulu Miya and Mbalenhle Hadebe, all from Menzi High School in Umlazi, Durban celebrate too, each having earned seven distinctions. Many young people in cities, suburbs, townships and rural areas across the country celebrate their matriculation too – most having waited until 2am to spot their names in newspapers before celebrating in streets with neighbours, calling fellow classmates and texting much-appreciated teachers. A total of 75.8% of all matriculants who wrote their exams from October to November 2014, passed. Leaving approximately 24.2% disappointed.
As is customary, on the eve of the annual release of the matric results, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announces the average national pass mark to a large media contingent at the SABC’s headquarters in Auckland Park. This year, the pass mark dropped by nearly 2.4% from 78.2% the previous year. Motshekga insists that this is because the standard and rigours of the examinations were significantly raised with the introduction of new matric curriculum, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).
An immovable tenet of education in South Africa; each year the matric results are the Basic Education department’s defining moment. The department celebrates schools such as Clarendon High School for Girls in Cape Town – which achieved a 100% pass rate for a record 22nd year running – and attracts sharp criticism for the continued existence of schools such as Seroletshidi and Makidi Secondary Schools in Limpopo, both of which recorded a 0% pass mark. This is ostensibly where the quality and state of South African education is routinely weighed. Every January, a recurring drama.
By February, the media’s focus shifts quickly from the national matric pass mark to tertiary institutions. However, most matriculants hopeful of furthering their studies are confronted with three challenges:
- whether the quality of education in secondary school (particularly math and science) adequately prepares them for the rigours of tertiary education
- whether universities have the capacity to accommodate all deserving matriculants
- the riddle of how to finance their studies
This raises important questions about the overall state of South African education: how active a role is government playing in delivering high quality secondary and tertiary education for all? Does the newly-introduced CAPS system better prepare learners for tertiary education? Is university education accessible to all deserving learners?
People’s Assembly has compiled an infographic that investigates that state of higher education in SA. In it, People’s Assembly sheds some light on some of our most pertinent questions about the odds a young South African faces to get an education.
Is government playing its part?
Is the government doing enough to ensure that you’re educated?
The South African government’s investment in education is one of the highest in the world. In the 2014/15 financial year, the treasury committed R254 billion (20%) of the national budget to education – the largest allocation – reflecting what is widely regarded as the government’s money-where-mouth-is style prioritisation of education at an executive level.
Furthermore, in a move that may suggest the government’s renewed prioritisation of quality education above the often sensationalised national pass mark, the DBE has quickly rolled out the CAPS matric curriculum – a more rigorous curriculum of educational content – of which the class of 2014 was the first to write. On Monday, Minister Motshekga emphasised that the drop in the pass rate was expected as curriculum changes had “increased the cognitive rigour and demands (for learners) … with high-order questions that will, over time, drive quality.”
Experts agree. According to Business Day Live, many education experts and academics such as Associate Professor at Wits University Yael Shalem have a positive outlook on CAPS and are hopeful that it will result in better schooling conditions for both teachers and students. “This curriculum review has the aim of lessening the administrative load on teachers and ensuring that there is clear guidance and consistency for teachers when teaching,” Shalem told the SABC earlier this week.
Senior researcher at Wits University, Stephanie Allais agrees, adding that CAPS is a much better system than the outgoing Outcomes Based Education (OBE) system, however maintaining that no system is perfect. The youngest member of parliament, the Democratic Alliance’s Yusuf Cassim, believes it’s premature for the minister to proclaim that CAPS is an improvement from the last education system, as we are yet to see how these matriculants will fare in academia.
What is the CAPS System?
So what’s with all the hype?
The CAPS system, introduced in 2012, is a new Grade R to 12 schooling curriculum that has replaced the long-maligned Outcomes Based Education (OBE) curriculum. Widely regarded as a positive change for South African education, national teachers’ union SADTU has, however, criticised the department of education for not adequately training teachers to adapt to the rigours of the new curriculum.
For the learner, CAPS is a stricter, more work-intensive curriculum than the previous one. Interestingly, it requires a broader range of commitments from the learner, such as avid recreational reading, according to education portfolio committee spokesperson, Nomalungelo Gina. “CAPS goes beyond just the classroom. It even encourages recreational reading because when a learner doesn’t enjoy reading, it hinders their progress and may impact them in the long run,” she says. She goes on to articulate that CAPS isn’t only about the learner, but also “prioritises the teacher’s administrative load and needs. It doesn’t focus solely on content, but is also about how we do things.”
CAPS has a detailed timeframe and ensuring that no learner misses out on a part of the curriculum that could hurt them in future. It has a single, comprehensive and concise policy document that will provide details on what teachers need to teach and assess on a grade-by-grade and subject-by-subject basis. This results in more work for the learners and then gives the assurance that they will complete the entire curriculum. It is for these reasons that education experts as are hopeful that the CAPS curriculum will better prepare learners for tertiary education.
Is higher education accessible to all deserving students?
Imagine this: it’s January. You’re one of 553 373 young people that have just matriculated. You’re ready to further your studies. What are your chances at an opportunity to better your life?
According to the People Assembly’s The State of Higher Education infographic, access to tertiary education in SA has increased steadily in South Africa, with the number of enrolled students going from 495 335 in 1994 to 953 373 in 2012.
In one of parliament’s main events each year – the budget speech – former finance minister Pravin Gordhan allocated R29.9 billion to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for the 2014/15 financial year – swelling NSFAS coffers from R5.1 billion last year to R6.6 billion by 2016/17. . DA MP Yusuf Cassim – whose constituency is made up of FET colleges and universities in the Eastern Cape, insists that this isn’t enough, and that the R253 billion that government allocated towards education isn’t a fair assessment of the government’s commitment to higher education – in particular, as a bulk of the funds go toward basic education.
Though only a disappointing 23% of the class of 2014 matriculated with bachelor passes, many of these students struggle to finance their studies in any case. This is why the DHET and universities such as UCT and WITS have routinely come under scrutiny for not doing enough to accommodate more learners with bachelor passes. Particularly those from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds – who face a sharper threat of academic exclusion.
In an effort to ensure deserving students are accommodated and have the opportunity to further their studies, the DHET has prioritised a large chunk of funds to building more Further Education and Training colleges around the country. In his 2014/15 budget speech, Pravin Gordhan insisted that the DHET would ” increase the number of Further Education and Training (FET) college bursaries to 292,000 and will assist over 236,000 students to attend university by 2016/17.”
In the DHET’s white paper for post-school education and training, released in 2013, the government has targeted the enrolment of 1.6 million students at university and 2.5 million students at FET colleges by 2030.
Do you believe government does enough to ensure young people are adequately educated? Do you hope to further your studies? What kind of challenges have you encountered? Let us know.
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