The quality of education in South Africa, particularly in public schools, has in the past and recently, been questioned by many. This comes after rumours regarding the mathematics pass mark, which was said to have dropped to 20 percent. The rumour, which caused a social media frenzy, was labelled as untrue by the Department of Education.
However, the question remains: Is the quality of education in South Africa improving or stagnant?
…it’s impossible to teach learners at the next level, when they can’t do tasks at a lower level.
Wits University’s Centre for Mathematics and Science Education, Professor Marissa Rollnick, said the 20 percent was certainly untrue. However, it is in fact, an approval level at the lower grades, which the schools use to push learners to the next grade. “In mathematics particularly, it’s impossible to teach learners at the next level, when they can’t do tasks at a lower level. Mathematics is a subject which builds on fundamental concepts. It’s like trying to build a house with a shaky foundation. The problem needs to be sorted out at a lower level and it’s not an easy thing to do. Many primary school teachers aren’t very confident in mathematics,” Prof Rollnick said.
Wits Univerity’s Dean of Faculty of Humanities, Professor Ruksana Osman, said: “to improve the quality of learning, schools need to improve their performance in the area of maths, science and accounting. We need to focus on early foundations of learning and not just matric,” she stated.
She added that universities work well with students who are accepted into the programmes they offer. However, some students struggle, especially in fields of study where maths and science skills are very important.
Experts acknowledged some improvements in the education system, but agreed the pass/fail certificate is rather worthless.
The pass/fail privilege is to provide learners with the opportunity to take elective coursework outside – to learn without concern for the grade impacting their grade point average (GPA).
Jabulane Khumalo is a journalist at The Alberton Record.
This article appeared in The Alberton Record on 8 January 2016