One of the first things that President Jacob Zuma did when he assumed office in 2009, was to split the then Department into two ministries - the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training.
Through this decision, the President signaled his commitment to improve our education system as he envisioned that the split would enable the two ministries to expand their focus and improve service delivery.
The matric pass rate for last year announced by the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga shows that the bold change is bearing fruit. Minister Motshekga announced a 78.2 per cent matric pass rate, an increase of 4.3 percentage points from the 2012 results of 73.9 per cent. The Minister has surpassed her target of 75 per cent she set in 2009.
President Zuma declared the Class of 2013 the best since the dawn of democracy and congratulated pupils who sat for the National Senior Certificate examinations and those who contributed to the increased pass rate.
“Education will take this country to prosperity which is why it is one of government’s five key priorities. We are pleased to note this consistently upward trend in the matric results, with the pass rate going from 62.6 per cent in 2008, dipping to 60.6 per cent in 2009 only to rise to 67.8 per cent in 2010, 70.2 per cent in 2011 and 73.9 per cent in 2012…We congratulate all the matriculants…. as well as the parents, teachers and school principals and school governing bodies. No education system can perform better than the quality of its teachers and the support of communities in which the schools are based,” he said.
As government, we are also humbled with the quality of results that show an upward trend from previous years. A total of 30.6 per cent of pupils who wrote the matric exam last year qualified for Bachelor’s studies, up from 26.6 per cent in 2012.
We are encouraged by an increase in the number of pupils who passed maths and physical science. According to the Department of Basic Education, the pass rate for mathematics was 59.1 per cent, an improvement from 54 per cent in 2012 while in physical science; it was 67.4 per cent from 61.3 per cent the previous year.
As we kick off the year in which the country will be celebrating the 20 Years of Freedom, the positive picture emerging from the recently released matric results serves as a beacon of hope for a better future. Looking back, we have much to celebrate. The national matric pass rate in 1995 was 53.4 per cent and 19 years later it is 78.2 per cent.
While there are still many challenges and more to be done to sustain these improvements, we should nonetheless celebrate our steady progress. As we do so we remain vigilant concerning the remaining challenges. There is still a long way to go.
However, the building blocks that we have put in place will yield a generation of school-leavers equipped to build our economy and society. We have, over the past years laid a strong foundation through the provision of Early Child Development (ECD) to promote the development of young children from beginning to the foundation phase of schooling. This led to the doubling of Grade R enrolment from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011.
As a democratically elected government we are committed to improving the quality of education for all. Our actions speak for themselves. The Department of Basic Education has, over the past few years introduced a number of strategic interventions to improve the quality of education.
These include the Annual National Assessments which are written by 7 million pupils, the development and distribution of more than 150 million workbooks over the past three years to Grade R – 9 pupils and focus on literacy and numeracy.
Through the establishment of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) and the development of the Planning, Delivery and Oversight Unit (PDOU) we can identify areas of weaknesses.
The strengthening of the National Curriculum Statement through the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), introduction of CAPS for Technical High Schools, and the development of South African Sign Language Curriculum to bring about clarity and inclusivity are some of the interventions introduced to make a difference.
We are also aware these achievements would not have been possible without the help of parents, guardians and teachers. Working together we have ensured our children are given an advantage to lead our country and economy. We can achieve more if we continue to work together.
Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)