The Education Department’s decision to allow progressed matric learners to write their exams over two years has failed, according to a report by The Sunday Times.

Of the 78,363 pupils who wrote their exams using this “opportunity”, just 6,320 passed – equating to a dismal 8% pass rate.

Of these students, only 260 attained Bachelor’s passes.

Education experts have blamed these poor results on a lack of support provided to these learners by schools and provincial education departments.

The new “multiple examination opportunity” allows learners who failed Grade 11 more than once to write some Matric papers in November and the others in June.

It is offered to students who fail at least three of their subjects in their preparation exams.

These students cannot have been absent for more than 20 days without a valid reason, and must have completed all of their assessment requirements.

However, education minister Angie Motshekga said in March that this system will be scrapped from 2020 onwards because some schools were actively encouraging their learners to use the multiple examination opportunity rather than writing all of their Matric exams with the rest of South African learners.

“Setting up pupils for failure”
UKZN Education department professor Labby Ramrathan told The Sunday Times that the multiple examination opportunity was nothing more than a “cosmetic intervention”.

“It is setting up pupils for failure. False hope through forced progression to these pupils impacts negatively on their self-esteem, especially when they fail despite the concessions given to them,” said Ramrathan.

He added that the system does not address the underlying problems these learners face.

“Lowering the workload for writing a full set of exam papers by progressed pupils is an incorrect assumption. They have conceptual difficulties in knowing and understanding the subject content and therefore even writing one paper at a time will not make any material difference to the pass rate.”

Professor Felix Maringe, head of the School of Education at Wits University, agreed that the Department of Education was addressing the wrong issues.

“Doing fewer subjects gives progressed learners more time and enhances their chances of achieving decent grades. But the fact that this does not happen simply means the strategy represents a tragic misdiagnosis of pupils’ difficulties.”

Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga commended those learners who passed through this option.

“A total of 26,442 learners who failed grade 11 in 2017 were progressed and finally obtained the NSC. This is confirmation that progressed learners with the appropriate support can succeed.”

“The notion that these learners are being set up for failure is furthest from the truth.”

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