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Unions Warn Against Setting Matric Pass Rate

The announcement of the matric pass rate is an exciting moment for many, but uncertainty seems to be in the air this year. Some provinces have already set targets for the pass rate, but unions and experts have warned against this.

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The KwaZulu Natal Education department has set a pass rate of 80% for the matriculants of 2020. The class of 2019 achieved a pass rate of 76.2%.

Earlier this month, some education experts warned that the matric class of 2020 will not produce good results come 23 February 2020. They predicted that this year's matriculants will have a lower pass rate and fewer distinctions than matriculants in past years.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) spokesperson Thirona Moodley said the organisation is against setting a pass rate for the class of 2020. 

"What benchmark can be used to set targets for a year such as this? This year has been an abnormal year for all. Grade 12 pupils came face-to-face with their teachers for 11 years and, unfortunately, in their final school year, they were forced to do much self-studying, which is new to them,” she said.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said the union is proud of the work that teachers have done, but believed that setting a target for the pass rate would be tough. 

A professor of economics at Stellenbosch University, Servaas van der Berg said the average matriculant has most likely lost "about a quarter of the scheduled school days this year". 

"Thus on average, they would be less prepared for the examination than in previous years"

He said recent data from a survey had shown that only 88% of matriculants had returned to school in July.

He said the possibility of a high pass rate was low, even for learners who attend schools with good resources. 

"It is inevitable that the matric pass rate would be significantly lower...Even at the top end, one would expect to see fewer distinctions"

Professor Labby Ramrathan of the University of KwaZulu-Natal suggested that the matric exam be reviewed in order for learners to be given a wide range of questions to choose from.

"The learners would have an opportunity to answer questions in areas where they had  some exposure through teaching rather than to answer questions that they may not have covered at school."

Professor Ursula Hoadley of the University of Cape Town said most schools said they would have covered the necessary content by the time exams start. 

"A million learners will be able to write the most consequential examination of their lives. One can only imagine the mess we would be sitting with if the department of basic education had not pushed the boat out to secure these exams."

The exams will start on 5 November and end on 15 December 2020. 

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