The drop in the matric pass rate this year could be attributed to more stringent marking.
“The assessment component is being more rigorously applied,” said professor Veronica McKay, dean of education at Unisa. “Markers are better trained and acclimatised now to the specific content being prescribed.”
She was reacting to the 5.1% drop in the matric pass rate for the class of 2015. McKay added that the selection of markers in the past two years had improved and coupled with a better training process, resulted in rigorous marking.
“There has been stringent control by Umalusi,” she said. “Many years ago, markers were outsourced and people were able to mark from their homes while in their beds.”
The 2015 overall pass rate was 70.7%, which represents 455 825 candidates who were successful. This was the largest number in South African eduction history, according to the education department.
“This represents an increase of 51 952 candidates from those who passed in 2014,” it said. “The national pass rate without progressed learners would have been 74.1%.
“The increase in the number of pupils qualifying for admission to bachelor studies increased from 150 737 in 2014 to 166 263 in 2015.”
McKay said the benefits of stricter marking included workshops in which markers were alongside matric teachers in order for teachers to see why marks were given.
“And then, in the end, the teacher takes away a lot of knowledge to use in the classroom for the following year.”
However, this knowledge was not always filtered down to a teaching level.
“Teachers must understand why marks were conducted that way, then do a whole range of analysis,” said McKay. “Teachers can help children to learn for their marks.
“There is a whole [range] of untapped knowledge here.” McKay said that at university level, 80% of remarks did not result in better marks.
“But there might be a way through interpretation that there might be a different result.
“A different eye may give a different result.” English marks may have also dropped as these matriculants were still from an “older system”, where English was only introduced later, in Grade 3, said McKay.
“Often, children didn’t have a large ability to use English as a language of teaching,” she said.
“But in 2012, the department made a wise move to bring in English as a first additional language from Grade 1 as a subject – and we are only going to see the benefits of that in the next eight years.”