Education standards ‘not dropping’ – Rakometsi

Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi is pictured outside the organisation's headquarters in Pretoria following an interview with The Citizen, 21 January 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi is pictured outside the organisation's headquarters in Pretoria following an interview with The Citizen, 21 January 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

With his own children still to get through matric, Umalusi Council’s chief executive officer, Mafu Rakometsi, says he has no uncertainties about the quality of education in South Africa – particularly the National Senior Certificate (NSC).

Almost a month following the announcement the Class of 2013 matric results of a record 78.2% since 1994, the father-of-three describes recent comments that the quality of the certificate was better off under apartheid as “an insult to South Africa as a country”.

“Politicians who are pleased to comment about this… it is an insult to say education was better under apartheid. It is an insult to this country because it never was.

“We struggled with many things and we cannot claim education was better under apartheid,” says Ramoketsi.

It comes as no surprise when the quality assurance body head pinpoints the debate about the dropping standards of the quality of education in the country with the 30% average pass requirement for selected matric subjects as his greatest challenge at the council.

“They are not dropping,” says the head of SA’s council for quality assurance in general and further education and training.

“People have a selective memory about the 30%. The 30%-debate comes from as far back as the 1870s when the first matric was written in this country to accommodate learners who pass with a low average.

“Those were learners who wanted to go straight into work after school and some just wanted to be good citizens and look after their homes, like mothers who chose to look after their kids at home. But now people take it that matric is only for those who want to go to universities and that is not the case, it is not true,” Rakometsi says.

“The pass percentage in my matric days was 33%. If you failed a subject at that 33% on higher grade, it was converted to lower grade to effect a pass.

“Now, the question that I am asking myself with the debate that is raging in the country right now is: ‘Where do we throw those pupils who cannot pass at 50%?’ What can they show when they go looking for work when they can not say: ‘At least I passed matric at this level’ … They will have nothing to show.”

Rakometsi says with the old certificate there used to be differentiation of higher grade and standard grade, but now, with the new NSC, there is no such differentiation. “It is just one subject,” he says, adding that “the range of questions it covers has to cover pupils who would have done it in higher grade and standard grade in a way that they are both accommodated”.

Rakometsi rates the currency of the NSC as being “very high” and can compete globally. “That is why the whole country comes to a standstill when the matric results are released. It is a premium certificate. Every parent, relative, and even neighbours want to know how a child has done in matric.”

“If you do not have a matric certificate in this country, you are as good as not having an ID book,” he says.

Speaking on the initial hiccups encountered in the introduction of the NSC in 2008, Rakometsi says: “The curriculum has stabilised. Curriculum experts will tell you that it takes five years for any new curriculum to stabilise.

“Having said that, the teachers are now familiar with the NSC five years down the line… that is a big achievement.

“The standards between the old Senior Certificate and the NSC did not drop,” says Rakometsi, adding the council’s quality assurance research was conducted in partnership with other educational experts inside and outside South Africa.

“Our first protocol is that we develop our own curricula because we have our own unique needs. Once the curriculum is there, we benchmark with other countries.”

In an instance where South Africa’s curriculum is found to be weaker than that of another country, Rakometsi says: “We would go back to the drawing board – because we know our children are going to compete in a global village.

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