EDITORIAL | Stop giving matrics three chances at school
Academics are right in saying ‘over-aged’ matrics should complete their schooling at adult learning facilities
In an ideal world, all pupils should complete matric after 12 years. But the reality is that hundreds of thousands of pupils repeat grades annually after failing tests and exams. In the Eastern Cape, 204,086 pupils across all grades were repeaters in 2020 after failing in 2019. The cost of keeping these youngsters in Eastern Cape schools in 2020 was an estimated R4.2bn. The department of basic education’s progression and promotion policies stipulate that pupils may only remain in a phase for a maximum of four years. For example, a pupil in the senior phase (grades 7 to 9) who fails may only be retained in any one of the three grades once. If the pupil fails the grade again, he or she is “progressed” to the next grade. The Council of Education Ministers (CEM), comprising basic education minister Angie Motshekga and her nine provincial MECs of education, decided in 2019 to implement an “automatic progression” policy in grades 1 to 3, meaning pupils who fail any of these grades must be pushed to the next grade. But the policy has not been implemented.
However, in Limpopo, unlike the other provinces, matrics are given three chances to pass grade 12 while attending school on a full-time basis. With this comes the problem of “over-aged” matrics sitting in class with younger pupils. Recently, Themba Mola, the COO of Kagiso Trust, told parliament “over-aged” matrics should complete their schooling at community colleges and adult learning centres. “Believe it or not, there are 24-year-olds who are still in school doing matric ... We understand they cannot be thrown away, but we think there must be a different dispensation, maybe the community colleges, that must be introduced in Limpopo to deal with this particular issue.”
Mola suggested those above the age of 22 should be enrolled in adult learning institutions. He went on to say not all pupils are academically inclined and applauded the department of basic education’s three-stream curriculum, which includes the technical vocational and technical occupational pathways. Academics such as Prof Loyiso Jita, the dean of the education faculty at the University of the Free State (UFS), said other avenues should be explored for those who failed matric because pupils who go back to the same class face a lot of “labelling and stigma for not being smart”. He also believed it was “a waste of money” to allow pupils three opportunities to pass matric. Prof Labby Ramrathan, from the education faculty at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), said the age difference between those above 20 and younger pupils “will continue to challenge issues of bullying, social ills like drugs and gangsterism, and gender-based violence”...