South African Matric results of 2013: Who says I need more than my pineal gland to pass?

In Timeslive, we read:

The government must act urgently to independently verify the credibility of the National Senior Certificate examination results and of all future matric results, DA leader Helen Zille said on Tuesday.

DA’s Zille calls for independent audit of matric results.

“I believe that the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, should institute a full-scale independent audit of the 2013 results,” Zille said in a statement. Provincial education departments are solely responsible for appointing markers and marking matric exams, the opposition party said.

Not marked by a central body, Exam papers are not marked by a central national body, the DA said.

“This means the quality of marking cannot be guaranteed and is not adequately or comparatively standardised around the country. “Matric markers are not tested for their competency, their subject knowledge or for their ability to interpret answers which are phrased differently from the exam memorandum,” Zille said.

Zille and friends

Zille and friends

I am reminded of a past colleague of mine from the University of Fort Hare who told me what happened to his daughter. She was one of the top pupils (ok, “learners,” if you want) in matric. In her English matric essay, she wrote on the topic “My first date.” She wrote about being stranded and starving in a desert  and came across this date  (palm – get it?). Our pupil failed the essay and consequently got low marks for the whole paper. She asked for a remark. This time she got an A. Moral of the story: only mother-tongue English speakers  should mark English First Language/Higher Grade papers – unless you’re like one of those non-mother tongue speakers of English whose English is much better than a mother-tongue speaker. (See my The Second Language (L2) speaker is dead – Long live the L2 speaker).

When I was a teacher at Mmabatho High Shchool in the 1980s, I did research on “ Indiscriminate Advancement and the Matric Pass Rate” which resulted in a PhD ““Language proficiency tests and the prediction of academic achievement,” University of Cape Town, 2000. The study investigates the ability of English proficiency tests (1) to measure levels of English proficiency among learners who have English as the medium of teaching and learning, and (2) to predict long-term academic achievement (Grade 7 to Grade 12).

In the 1980s, the matric pass rate for the whole of South Africa was much much lower than the bountiful 78.2% for 2013. For one thing, the pass mark was not a paltry 30%. In the 1980s there were not many complaints about the pass mark being unrealistically high. Indeed, it was the other way round where “Bantu” education and other factors were blamed for scuppering the aspirations of black learners.

Various reasons for the low pass rate have been suggested in academia and the media. Reasons given in academia were: the low level of English proficiency of learners (Young, 1987), Bantu Education (Hartshorne, 1987), the medium of instruction and learning from Grade 5 onwards (English) is a language which is non-cognate to the learner’s first language (Mascher, 1991), and low academic ability (Gamaroff, 1995a, 1995b, 1997a). Reasons in the media were: the irrelevance of the contemporary school system to real life, the absence of a culture of learning and teaching, an impoverished primary school and preschool background, a pass-one-pass-all mentality, the demoralisation and disillusionment of teachers, the irresponsibility of teachers, the poor administration by the Minister of Education and by the provinces, a lack of commitment from the business sector, strikes encouraged by teachers’ trade unions, and a general breakdown in society.

Without doubt all these factors have contributed in some way to academic failure. There is one other factor, however, that has not been mentioned, namely, automatic promotions through the grades. According to the editorial in Educamus (1990:3) and Calitz (1998:14) the educational casualty figures would have been much higher if automatic promotions, or indiscriminate advancement, had not occurred in individual schools from one grade to the next.(For references given, see Indiscriminate Advancement and the Matric Pass Rate).

In the  City press, we read that “basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is considering raising the controversial 30% matric pass requirement – and she wants South Africans’ advice. Motshekga’s department has run advertisements in several newspapers calling for public comment on, among other things, whether the current 30% minimum pass mark is enough to equip pupils for success in higher education and the workplace.”

A Theatre . A brain operation is in progress.

Actors: Surgeon in charge and Newish (Jewish?) surgeon

Surgeon in charge: Hey, that’s the pineal gland of the brain you’re stabbing!

Newish: Surgeon: Sorry, I only know about this 30% of the brain; they didn’t teach me anything about the other 70%.

Surgeon in charge: Your teacher’s in for it. I’m gonna separate his body from his soul; and I don’t need to go through his pineal gland to do it.

Theatre notes: The pineal gland is a tiny organ in the center of the brain that played an important role in Descartes’ philosophy. He regarded it as the principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.

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2 responses to “South African Matric results of 2013: Who says I need more than my pineal gland to pass?

  1. Pingback: Indiscriminate Advancement and the Matric Pass Rate | Grammargraph

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