FS matric results a farce?

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The culling or gatekeeping of learners to artificially inflate the matric results is a widespread practice across the Free State. This is according to Jaco Deacon, deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas). Deacon says in 2016 alone – the same year when the Free State was crowned the best province in terms of the matric results – more than 2000 learners got lost in the system.

According to official statistics more than 28900 learners started out in matric at the beginning of the year, but only approximately 26700 sat for their final exams. Deacon says there are several ways how schools are implementing this practice.

He says schools deliberately keep weaker students back in lower grades (9-11). “They sometimes encourage “weaker” learners to drop out since they are not legally required to be in school anymore or they ask matriculants to enrol as part-time learners because their results are not being considered,” explains Deacon.Exposing this practice has now led to questions around Free State’s claim as the top achiever.

The DA in parliament has asked for clarity on whether the Free State is in fact the best performing province. This follows after the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, said in answer to a written question in parliament, looking at a new formula, the Western Cape is the best performing province. The new formula forms part of the department’s new format of reporting that is called “An Inclusive Basket of Criteria”.

Meanwhile, allegations about culling or gatekeeping matriculants have emerged, fueling suspicion that the practice is widespread in the Free State. DA MP, Gavin Davis, says in terms of the new format the Western Cape has proved to be the highest performing province in terms of mathematics passes, bachelor passes and distinctions. He says the Western Cape also had the highest put-through rate, while the Free State had the fifth highest rate. “

A low put-through rate indicates a high number of learners either dropping out of the system, or being held back. Indeed, a high pass rate can be manufactured if weak learners are actively held back or encouraged to exit the system,” Davis explains. He says this is reason to believe that the Free State’s high pass rate in 2016 was due to its low put-through rate. Davis says this could be due to this practice, adding that “only a full-scale investigation will be able to expose this practice.”

Spokesperson for the Free State Education Department, Howard Ndaba, has however, denied these allegations. He says the matric results were processed by the National Department of Basic Education and quality assured by Umalusi. The criteria for performance was also clear last year and in terms of that criteria Free State took the top spot. Ndaba says if the new formula gets implemented this year, it can only be used with this year’s matric results. – Cathy Dlodlo
cathy@centralmediagroup.co.za