The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education received a briefing today from the Department of Basic Education and the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) on the recently released National Senior Certificate Matric results for 2022.

The committee was told during the briefing that, contrary to reports from various education sources including students and teachers, Question 5.1 in Mathematics Paper 2 was neither unfair nor difficult. The Matric class of 2022 recorded a pass mark percentage of over 80%.

Minister of Basic Education Ms Angie Motshekga led a strong delegation comprising Director-General Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli and Professor Yunus Ballim, the Chair of Umalusi. Minister Motshekga said teachers of this cohort of learners faced a knowledge gap that arose as a result of the Covid-19 years. However, she also noted that teachers had tried to address this challenge.

“The system has stabilised and now we will focus on the problem areas. We are encouraged by this achievement, but a lot of work still needs to be done,” she said.

The committee received a detailed breakdown of students’ performance per subject and also heard that quintile 1 to 3 schools recorded a significant improvement in performance. Furthermore, in Mpumalanga 26 schools were affected by examination irregularities.

Members of the committee asked questions on a number of issues, including accounting for the learners who drop out and do not complete their schooling. While committee member Mr Baxolile Nodada asked whether it was not time for the country to adapt a blended method of testing learners. “In these NSC exams, what are we measuring that we could not measure in continuous class assessments?”

Another committee Member, Mr Elvis Siwela, wanted to know if the department could not devise a better way to calculate the dropout rate, so that it is not used to discredit the work of the department. He also wanted to know why there was a high variation of participation in mathematics.

Committee member Ms Nombuyiselo Adoons asked the department to respond to the allegation that the pass mark of 30% undermines the quality of education in the country. She further urged the department to come up with a comprehensive report on mathematics performance that details factors contributing to poor maths performance

The committee also said it needed a report on the dropout rate, and what was being done to make sure that the lost learners are brought back into the system.

In response to the questions, Minister Motshekga clarified that her role concerned learners who were in the public schooling system, and that if they drop out and attended private school she had no control. On the 30% percent pass mark, she said that the regime that the department currently uses did not fail learners if they got 30% in one subject, but good marks overall.

She lauded the role of education assistants. The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba congratulated the class of 2022, and said the only concern was the poor performance in maths.

Sibongile Maputi
24 January 2023