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Speech on the release of the 2005 senior certificate examination results, Parliament, 29 December 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches


Speech by the Naledi Pandor, MP, Minister of Education, on the release of the 2005 senior certificate examination results, Parliament

29 December 2005
Introduction: the class of 2005
In my comments on the 2004 matriculation exam results, I began by quoting from the matric-results speeches of our former ministers of education.
In this year’s comments I intend to limit reference to the past and to attempt instead to provide signals for the future.
This is because the matric class of 2005 is the class with which our new system began. We have now come of age and are at a point at which we should indicate to South Africa what kind of ‘adult’ we intend to be.
We can say to South Africa today that the effect of the 2005 results will be to make the education sector strive hard to be a confident, competent, achieving sector, one that provides young people with the tools to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by a growing and progressively transforming democratic South Africa.
Our education system has come of age, our matriculants have come of age by reaching this point in their education, and our school, parents, teachers and communities have come of age by supporting us and steering us to this point of achievement.
Today we will give some sense of how education must perform in the future and some insight into indicators that suggest that we can and must perform better.
I begin by extending my warmest congratulations and good wishes to all those who have passed their senior certificate exams and to those who have passed their ABET or FET vocational education and training exams. Our thanks and congratulations to all those teachers who have made a contribution to the success and achievements that will be celebrated from today. I know without the hard work of dedicated teachers I would not be able to stand before South Africa today and say well done to thousands of young South Africans (and one or two mature ones).
Today we acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of the class of 2005 - a special cohort of children, graduating in a special year, the year of celebrating the Freedom Charter. The class of 2005 started school in 1994. They are the first cohort to learn from start to finish under a democratic dispensation. They are the first cohort to learn the values of equality, non-racialism and non-sexism at school. They are our measure of how our system is growing and maturing.
In 1994, the year they began in grade one, 495,408 full-time candidates wrote the senior certificate exam and 287,343 passed. Twelve years later in 2005 a total of 508 363 full-time candidates wrote the senior certificate and 347 184 passed. I make this comparison to emphasise capacity rather than performance. It is unhelpful to compare an untransformed system in 1994 with the transformed system in 2005.
The year 2004 taught me that South Africans keenly observe the matriculation exams and that the results are used as a means of assessing our progress. Although I hold the view that we should be watching the entire education system with the same keen interest, I do understand why this exam still matters so much. I am sure many of you are relieved that this year we release the results free from the unpleasant cheating and unprofessional collusion that clouded 2004.
We determined then that 2005 would be a year in which Umalusi, the quality assurer, would assume primary responsibility not only for the assessment process but also for every facet of the examination process from monitoring irregularities to moderation of the marking process. I am pleased to report that Umalusi has declared that matric 2005 was “fair, valid and reliable”.
Moreover, Umalusi found that, and I quote, “the cognitive demand in examination question papers in general and the nationally set ones in particular, increased considerably.” There has been a step change in quality assurance at Umalusi. As a result of last year’s research, Umalusi paid particular attention to moderating the question papers for 2005. As a result, and I quote, “The examination has become less predictable and this enhances its reliability and validity.”
This seal of assurance is a very significant achievement for the Department of Education and the provincial departments and I want to congratulate all the officials involved in the examinations, the heads of education, the DG and his team, for the very hard work they have done to deliver a fair, valid and reliable exam.
A range of commentators, critics, well-wishers, and colleagues are going to assist us in analysing and critically examining the results in the next few days. They will find, as you will, that a great deal lies behind the statistics and outcomes I will present to you. Some of the outcomes are positive, but there are also a number of worrying features that the Department and our provincial colleagues have to address. The positive features indicate the possibility of significant progress in future, and the negatives suggest regression if we do not act decisively.
The matric 2005 results show that more candidates wrote the examination and more candidates passed as compared to 2004.
The report from Umalusi indicates that Matric 2005 was more cognitively demanding, in that the question papers were tough yet fair, and a wider range of skills was assessed. The exam was also more closely assured and assessed than ever before.
The management of the matric 2005 was more professional, showed growing confidence among teachers and pupils, and a growing maturity among examiners
All in all, this year’s results have begun to respond to those critics who decried the standard of exam papers, who questioned security measures, and who doubted that a credible exam was possible.
It is clear from this exam and our past experience that success does not come from the work of one year. It takes several years and great effort to achieve a successful school leaving examination and successful schools.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask that, as community members, you should all take an interest in your local high schools, visit them in January, find out about how they performed in the exam. After all their success is your community’s success, and their failure signals work for the community.
Your support throughout the various phases of schooling will lend strong credibility to your critical scrutiny of education. It will also allow you to play an active role in encouraging young people and schools to strive for more, in making sure we do better for all our learners. The year 2005 has been marked by lively debate on education matters. I hope we will all translate this interest into practical support for our schools and an active role in ensuring they can and do perform well.
The pass rate
I turn now to the pass rate. The pass rate provides a lot of useful insights about the functioning of our system of education. It assists in isolating good practice, bad practice, and in identifying gaps in education practice in our schools. It tells us what learners know, what they can do and what needs to be addressed to improve learner outcomes.
Remember that it was only in 2001 that the first set of common national papers was administered in Mathematics, English Second Language Physics, Accounting, and Biology, with History added in 2003. Since then learners in the nine provinces have been writing the same examination paper in each of these six subject areas. In addition, the use of the year mark for calculating the final grade of learners was also introduced. This comprised an aggregate of scores obtained through classroom tests, homework, practical work and assignments. These features of the exam system have assisted in creating a national set of data that begins to allow for national comparison.
With this in mind, I come to the matric 2005 pass rate.
You may recall that in 2004 I said our system should strive to report a national pass rate of at least 70%. We have not met that aspiration in 2005. We have come close. The national pass rate in matric 2005 is 68.3%. It is 2,4% down on 2004 (70.7%). I remain convinced that we can do much better nationally. I am encouraged by the fact that 16 500 more learners passed this year than in 2004. Given the comments by Umalusi and the very tough papers in some of the national subjects, 68,3% is a good achievement.
The pass rate in the senior certificate exam provides us with information about the performance of our schools and our pupils. Five key indicators - geography, gender, achievement in maths and science, achievement in language, and the number of university endorsements - serve as important points of reference.
The provincial pass rates, in order of rank (the same ranking as last year), are as follows:




  • Western Cape 84.4% (85% in 2004)
  • Northern Cape 78.9% (83.4% in 2004)
  • Free State 77.8% (78.7% in 2004)
  • Gauteng 74.9% (76.8% in 2004)
  • KwaZulu-Natal 70.5% (74% in 2004)
  • Limpopo 64.9% (70.6% in 2004)
  • North West 63.0% (64.9% in 2004)
  • Mpumalanga 58.6% (62% in 2004)
  • Eastern Cape 56.7% (53.5% in 2004)

In six of the provinces more learners passed this year than in 2004. The greatest increases were in the Eastern Cape (+5,700), Gauteng (+2,500), KwaZulu-Natal (+3,000), and Limpopo (+5,200).
For the first time this year we are releasing the results, disaggregated by the 79 school districts. This allows a more nuanced perspective on the district-level unit of organisation in the provinces. It also provides us with direct information about schools. The district review shows that in all provinces there are remarkably successful districts. We need to emphasise that there is significant internal migration within provinces and that this should be compared to our knowledge of the impact of inter-provincial migration.
For example, the Eastern Cape with its 24 districts provides us with useful insights. The most successful district is Uitenhage with 37 schools and 3 000 pupils (pupil numbers rounded), a pass rate of 73%, and only 9 schools with an under 50% pass rate. The most populous district is Port Elizabeth with 76 schools and 8 000 pupils, a pass rate of 70% and only 17 schools under 50%. But if you look at the district with the most schools, King Williams Town, with 112 schools and 7 000 pupils, the pass rate is 48% and there are 72 schools with under 50%. Of course, King Williams Town has a particular history of deprivation and disadvantage, and we need to take that legacy into account.
We have not finalised our analysis of districts, but we are convinced that we will gather information that will assist in formulating appropriate policies and appropriate interventions. As I said last year we have to attend to the matter of schools that consistently perform below par. The issue of small rural schools must also be resolved, as must the urgent matter of the 178 schools that achieved less than 20%.
Maths and science
Six national papers were written in 2005 and I am pleased to report an increase in the numbers passing five of the six higher-grade papers and four of the six standard grade papers.
There is general agreement that our success rates in mathematics and science are still below the levels necessary to respond satisfactorily to our skills needs. We have dealt with our planned responses in this area in previous speeches. We will be doing more to increase the success rates in these critical subjects.
The increase from 24 143 in 2004 to 26 383 maths HG passes this year is commendable, but the numbers are not yet enough to ensure our accelerated growth targets. The successful achievers in mathematics deserve our congratulations because the 2005 exam was a very tough paper. In addition, we need to emphasise that there was also an increase in the numbers who passed maths on the standard grade.
There was also an increase in science HG passes from 26 975 in 2004 to 29 965 in 2005. This is a positive indication of progress.
The issue of language looms large in South African schooling, given that the majority of children study in a second language.
This year there have been significant increases in the numbers passing languages on the higher grade.
English as a Second Language is the subject with the largest number of registrations, but the performance of the candidates in this exam is extremely low and levels of achievement have not changed over the years.
However, I am pleased to see the growing number of passes in indigenous languages on the higher grade.
More girls sit the matric exam, pass the exam, and achieve university endorsements than boys, but their percentage pass rate (67.2%) is lower than boys (69.7%). This means that more girls fail than boys. In this exam the highest achievers are girls; they outnumber boys in merit and distinction awards.
University endorsements
More candidates achieved a university endorsement in 2005 than in 2004. This year there were the 86 531 (17%) compared to 85 117 (18.2%) in 2004.
The trend is clearly upwards in terms of candidates qualified to go into higher education.
The class of 2005 has provided the highest number of endorsements since 1994 (88 497).
Enriching school resources
So what lessons can we learn from these results?
First we need to improve access to school for post-15 year olds. Several studies have shown the numbers of pupils who drop-out at grade 10. We have to encourage children and particularly boys to remain in school. We believe that the new curriculum offers our system to realise this goal.
Second, we need to address specific quality issues. We need to support our schools in ensuring that learners achieve high levels of competence in the languages of teaching and learning. We need to tackle the conditions that tend to make schools in rural areas, on farms and in townships less effective sites of learning. And we need to introduce a comprehensive policy to attract candidates into teaching as a vital and respected career, to provide high-quality initial teacher education and continuing professional development.
Third our focus on equity has to be significantly expanded. We have to boost the school resources that are funded through the school allocation. We have planned the process of abolishing fees in the majority of our poorer schools. But we need to boost the amount of money that is available for libraries, laboratories, and school sport. This also means significantly improving the professional and administrative support that provincial, district and circuit education offices provide to schools.
This is where we can really make a difference: in enriching school resources. Our belief is that the richer the learning environment in school the better children perform. Teachers clearly need adequate resources to aid them and where these are absent their learners struggle. Where schools have a library or book collection, an Internet connection or a teaching resources centre learners do better.
The availability of such school resources is a crucial dimension of school effectiveness. They are a “threshold” factor that enables effective learning and teaching to develop and flourish.
Clearly enriching resources without dedicated teachers would achieve little. We need a corps of teachers who do what must be done.
The last issue concerns monitoring and evaluation. Both at the centre and in the provinces crucial steps are being taken to strengthen monitoring and evaluation so as to achieve and maintain improvement in teaching and learning.
The consolidated 2005 FET college results in the fields of natural sciences and general studies are released today and are available on our website.
We also release today the 2005 adult basic education and training results. Over 32,000 wrote the ABET Level 4 examinations and 31,000 obtained credits towards a GETC. However, only 941 adult learners obtained a full general education and training certificate, a decline from 1 260 in 2003.
In closing, I would also like to express my appreciation and gratitude to my officials, who have once more sacrificed their holidays to make it possible for us to announce the results in the same year in which the examinations were written.
I also wish to extend my sincere and deepest gratitude to provincial Heads of Education, examination officials and all stakeholders involved in education for a job well done. The MECs, together with their provincial officials, also deserve a special mention for ensuring that our policies are implemented effectively.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 1297

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