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Concern over drop in maths, physical science matric results


Education experts have expressed concern over the performance of the 2020 matric class in maths and physical science

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EDUCATION experts have expressed concern over the performance of the 2020 matric class in physical science and maths, despite the “commendable” overall quality of passes.

Physical science saw a drastic drop in the pass rate from 75.5% in 2019 to 65.8% in 2020, while the number of candidates passing maths declined from 54.6% to 53.8%.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) president Nkosiphendule Ntantala said the drop of more than 15 000 candidates that enrolled for pure maths was disturbing.

“Naptosa believes too many learners are allowed to stop taking pure maths in Grade10 in favour of maths literacy. Is this about schools and PEDs (provincial education departments) chasing the 100% pass rate?

“What then about the life chances of these learners or even the future needs of the country? It’s important learners be given the maximum assistance to continue taking pure maths till Grade 12.”

Ntantala said lessons learned in 2020 must serve to improve schooling in 2021 and beyond.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta appealed to keep in mind the challenges the class of 2020 faced in admission to tertiary education.

“The impact of having such low pass rates in subjects such as physical science and maths will have an effect on the scores of learners when enrolling in universities. Some might not meet the academic requirements. They might also experience some difficulties during their studies due to school disruptions, so universities will have to offer extra tuition.”

Equal Education researcher Stacey Jacobs meanwhile commended quintile 1 to 3 learners who obtained Bachelor passes. Quintile 1 is the group of schools in each province catering for the poorest 20% of learners. Quintile 2 schools cater for the next poorest 20% and so on.

“These are learners who experienced a lot of difficulties even prior to Covid-19. In a survey we conducted last year most of them spoke about the challenges of food and security and homes not being conducive for learning as some have a lot of family members. In other cases, there were issues to access study materials and support,” said Jacobs.

Basic Education Department director-general Mathanzima Mweli said 2020 school disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic affected relative performance across subjects.

“Subjects which rely to a high degree on contact teaching, and perhaps the use of equipment in the classroom, would have suffered most.

“Subjects which lend themselves to more independent studying by learners would have fared better.

“What is already clear from the 2020 data is that learners performed relatively well in maths, and relatively poorly in physical science. This could have been because of this.”