Overview of Education in SA: NCS

Nelson-Mandela-Quotes-Education2

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”. Given that education can be used to change the world, how is education in South Africa doing? Is it a well-sharpened weapon? And is it being used to improve South Africa, let alone the world? To answer these and other related questions, data was collected on the South African education system and some interesting insights emerged .

Currently, education in South Africa is run by two departments, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the department of Higher Education (DHE). DBE is essentially responsible for education up to Matric level. It deals with public schools, private schools, early childhood development centres, and special needs schools. On the contrary, DHE is responsible for schooling post Matric. This includes FET colleges; ABET centres and Higher Education  institutions.

The main focus of this article is the performance of the South African basic education system since the introduction of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS). NCS was introduced in 2008 and it was terminated in 2013. One of the goals of NCS was to ensure that each student studies either Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy to ensure that all learners are prepared for life and work in an increasingly technological, numerical and data driven world.

Data was collected for the duration of the NCS curriculum. This data was obtained from the DBE and the DHE websites. The data analysis provided the insights to follow.

Figure 1Figure 1 (Click picture to view): Pass rates for GP,EC, FS, KZN, LP and SA average.

Figure 2Figure 2 (Click picture to view): Pass rates for  WC, MP,NC,NW and SA average.

 

Figures 1 and 2 above show the trend in the Grade 12 pass rate in each of the nine provinces in South Africa from 2008 to 2013.  Note that the pass rates have been separated into two graphs for ease of interpretation.

The pass rates over the period of study were low for Eastern Cape (EC), Limpopo (LP), Mpumalanga (MP) and Northern Cape (NC). This is because they have been lower than the South African average pass rate depicted by the black line in Figures 1 and 2. The other provinces performed better than the South African average over this period of study.

An interesting trend is that the pass rates for all the provinces are increasing.  In particular, MP has increased each year more than any other province. A possible reason for the general increase across all provinces is that the teachers understood the content of the syllabus better as they taught it, and were thus able to convey the material to the students in a way that they could understand.

Another  possibility could be that the standard of the exams has been dropping from 2008 to 2013, or the results may have also been affected by some marking/cheating scandals which may have not been fully identified.

Figure 3Figure 3 (Click picture to view): Quality of Matric Pass Rates in each province.

In order to understand the quality of the passing  in each province, it is important to analyse the percentage of Bachelor, Diploma and Higher Certificate passes in each province. A Bachelor pass means that the student will likely qualify for university entry, a Diploma pass means that the student will likely qualify for entry into a University of Technology and a Higher Certificate pass allows the student to attend an FET college. The detailed breakdown of the classification of a pass is shown in Figure 3 above.

Figure 3 shows that LP and EC produce more Diploma and Higher Certificate passes than Bachelor passes. This means that the number of students that pass well is low as a relative few will get into university. On the other hand, WP and GP produced the highest percentage of Bachelor passes, and few Higher Certificate passes. This means that a higher proportion of WC and GP students will qualify for University entrance.

A possible reason why the quality of the pass rates for EC, MP and LP are low could be the high cost of University fees, which demotivates learners as they may not be able to go to University due to lack of funds, even if they pass well. In addition, it could also be argued that, relative to the other provinces, there are more school going children who are also breadwinners in their respective homes; and thus not having sufficient time to focus on their studies.

Given that NCS is an altered form of Outcome Based Education (OBE), it requires that each province has access to financial and other resources in order to get the full benefits from an OBE-based curriculum( instead of a solely content based curriculum). EC and LP are poorer than GP and WC, and thus are less likely to perform well in an OBE-based curriculum without lots of funds being injected into education. In addition, the departments of education in LP and EC were put under administration during the period of study due to mismanagement of funds. Thus the mismanagement of funds may have also played a role in the poor performance of the two provinces.

Figure 4Figure 4 (Click picture to view): Pass rates for each subject assuming that the pass mark is 30%.

Figure 5Figure 5 (Click picture to view): Pass rates for each subject assuming that the pass mark is 40%.

 

Figures 4 and 5 above show the pass rate for each subject over the period 2008 to 2013 given pass marks of 30% and 40% respectively.

When focusing on the general pass rate trend per subject, it is evident that students do well in Mathematical Literacy, History and Business studies, while their performance in Mathematics and Physical Sciences is poor. In addition, there appears to be an improvement in the Matric pass rates for History and Physical Sciences, while the pass rates in the other subjects has been fairly constant of the study period.

The graphs above show that there are many students that get above 30% in each of the subjects.  Of the students that got above 30%, few achieved a mark above 40%. In fact, the data also shows us that, of those that got above 30%, around 35% got less than 40%.  This means that the quality of the passes is poor, as only a few students achieve a mark higher than 30%. This is in line with the results in Figure 3.

Data for other subjects such as Geography could not be obtained. Life Orientation was excluded from the above analysis as the pass rates were at least 99% for each year in the period of study, and because Life Orientation is not a written examination.

Figure 6 Figure 6 (Click picture to view): Performance of Males and females across the different Matric subjects. This is assuming that the pass mark is 30%.

Figure 6 displays the breakdown of the number of students that passed each subject by gender over the period from 2008 to 2013.

The above graph tells us that over the study period, the performance of males and females has been more or less the same for Accounting, Business Studies, History and Life Sciences, while males outperform females in Mathematics, Mathematical literacy and Physical Sciences.

This suggests a possible reason as to why there are more males in the fields of Engineering, Actuarial Science and other Mathematics and Science related fields at University, and consequently, in the workplace.

A summary of the salient points extracted from the data presented in this article are as follows:

  • South African Grade 12 students are not performing well in the subjects of Mathematics and Science
  • Females are performing poorly relative to males in these subjects
  • The poorer provinces, Limpopo and Eastern Cape, have not performed well under NCS
    • A possible reason for this may be lack funding of education in these provinces
    • Another reason may be the mismanagement of funds allocated to education.

However, a more thorough study into the performance of all provinces is required in order to identify the key contributors to the performance of the respective provinces.

We are currently in, and moving deeper into, a technology and computing based economy. The results of this data analysis suggest that the South African education system is not improving fast enough. If the quality of results for Mathematics and Science do not improve, South African students could find themselves not having the relevant skills to cope in a skill driven employment environment. This will hinder the ability of the students to fully contribute positively to society in the future, as South Africa aims to move from being a developing to being a developed economy.

 

 

12 Replies to “Overview of Education in SA: NCS”

  1. A very interesting article to read. The change in our system, although it has positively influenced the performance of some provinces, it has in one way or another been affecting the students negatively. Is it just aiming at increasing the passing rate or is it preparing matriculants for the higher education ahead? Matriculants usually go for something which best suits their matric performance and it’s really sad to see all A’s students drop out from university. But this also may be due to a number of reasons. How can those students in the impoverished provinces find help? Be it tutoring them or motivation because some of them as you said, are just not motivated due to a lot of factors as you mentioned. Although there are a few programs run to enlighten the students about careers but some of them really need help to get the necessary requirements to choose the career they want. I hope this is not out of context.

  2. You have raised some interesting questions Gavaza. As of yet, there are no clear answers to the questions you have raised. Its some of the things that we will be looking into in the near future. Hopefully, we will be able to get to meaningful answers and solutions. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Very informative article about how far we have come as country. But I think the spectrum should be broadened and not only focus on Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy and maybe the number of departments that run education should be increased. We should invest immensely on teaching entrepreneurinial skills and any other soft skills that will help South African learners be competitive in the workplace and allow most of the to study abroad.

    The only way learners can be prepared for life and to work in an increasingly technological world, is for them to be exposed to technology at a tender age. They will be efficient and well equipped for life post school. All leaners should have access to a computer and internet, this will enhance teaching and learning significantly.

  4. The state of our education in South Africa is becoming worse by the years. The youth coming in the system after us are still taught the same way we were. As technology and pace of information is increasing in world, South still chooses to remain. My guess is the government is scared to have a better educational system as the learners will be negatively impacted, to be honest it may take years to see the benefit of it. But I believe it needs to be done, even if 40% of learners PASS, other programmes will be in place to support the learners. The gap between university and matric is still so great, the only way it can be reduced is by having a strong education system. I love the article, you have touched on many crucial points. Very well executed.

  5. @ Prudence: We fully agree with your view about teaching entrepreneurial skills at school. It would go along way in reducing youth unemployment. Also, we think exposing learners to technology (computers etc.) would also be useful. This will however require more funding into education. But we think that it is worth looking into.

  6. @Lunghile: We agree that the gap in content between university and high school is big. This is something we are also looking at. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Its amazing how every year we all join in to say ” Matric results are bad” yet no one has ever tried to find out what the real reason behind poor performances might be. Like Gavaza Baloyi said, “it’s really sad to see all A’s students drop out from university”. I mean, how well they perform at university is somehow affected by their educational background. We can not overlook the fact that a learner who is more technologically advanced has a greater chance of doing well than one who isn’t. This is really an interesting read, very profound. I hope people in high positions, especially those that make decisions about the South African education system, can also read. It would help improve our education because most people are not aware of all these things that you looked into. Well done.

  8. Interesting indeed. I think our government has neglected our education system the moment they failed to incentivise our teachers. I’m of the view that for someone to contribute fully according to their potential they must be given an incentive. It is incentive enough to known that you are giving a helping hand, but if your economic needs are not satisfied you will be demotivated to do your job. It saddens me big time when we close schools because teachers have went on strike, and our government delays to respond to the demands of our teachers. I am not sorely blaming the state for this (as all of us should be responsible of our education system), but the state must start to take this issues seriously.

  9. Good Read. Furthermore to the topic is that, socioeconomic factors also have an influence on how students perform in our schools, more especially public schools. The effect of such lay education systems also results in students adopting to mediocrity. The effect of 30% pass rates will result in a high number of students not digesting the whole content that may be useful in moving our economy to greater heights. The other factor that also has an impact in our schooling system is that the teachers who are supposed to equip this students with the necessary technical and conceptual skills needed in a technological intensive economy, actually lack these skills. Teachers don’t take time to study the content or pre-read for lessons(not all teachers though), teachers must play a role in making learning enjoyable and motivating students. Thus the teacher as well, partially is the product of the results that is depicted on those graphs. Textbook content changes because of a technology, new discoveries, and my empirical evidence is that they are negative towards new chapters and section. The other thing which is somehow ignored when one considers our poor performances is teachers dedicate a significant time on unnecessary or necessary administration(lack of a better word, but I am referring to a chunk of forms and rubric they have to complete) and thus less time on imparting knowledge. Thus although the onus is on the learner to do well, teachers must equip or be equipped with the necessary skills to motivate and lead these students.

  10. I must commend the admirable efforts being expended in this respect to evaluate our progress as a country in the area of education.

    The correlation between educational performance and the socio-economic environment does appear to emerge in a strikingly pronounced fashion – Your analysis of passes by province highlights the relatively poor performances of Limpopo, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape provinces – and the first three in particular, generally fare poorly in terms of the GDP contribution levels relative to the other provinces (the higher levels of GDP contributions from EC are diluted to an extent by the relatively higher population size in the province I guess, but also generally ranks poorly on socio-economic considerations).

    I guess going against this pattern slightly, is the seemingly competitive performance shown by learners in the North-West province (pass rates are good and the province had the third highest performance in terms of bachelor. It would be interesting to see what dynamics may be at play influencing the performance in this province positively.

    It is disappointing to see how poor the performances in Maths and Science have been. It does seem there is some improvement in learners performance in Physics somewhat since 2008, but the performance in Mathematics has really been too poor. I would have expected that given how vocal the government has been about promoting Maths and Science, a notable improvement in performance would have manifested over the years, but this does not seem to be the case.

    Interesting stuff that you are unearthing there.

  11. I must commend the admirable efforts being expended in this respect to evaluate our progress as a country in the area of education.

    The correlation between educational performance and the socio-economic environment does appear to emerge in a strikingly pronounced fashion – Your analysis of passes by province highlights the relatively poor performances of Limpopo, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape provinces – and the first three in particular, generally fare poorly in terms of the GDP contribution levels relative to the other provinces (the higher levels of GDP contributions from EC are diluted to an extent by the relatively higher population size in the province I guess, but also generally ranks poorly on socio-economic considerations).

    I guess going against this pattern slightly, is the seemingly competitive performance shown by learners in the North-West province (pass rates are very good and the province had the third highest performance in terms of bachelor and second highest in Diploma rated passes in 2013. It would be interesting to see what dynamics may be at play influencing the performance in this province positively.

    It is disappointing to see how poor the performances in Maths and Science have been. It does seem there is some improvement in learners performance in Physics somewhat since 2008, but the performance in Mathematics has really been too poor. I would have expected that given how vocal the government has been about promoting Maths and Science, a notable improvement in performance would have manifested over the years, but this does not seem to be the case.

    Interesting stuff that you are unearthing there, keep changing the world champ!!!

  12. Pingback: The Role of Technology in Education

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