What does 'black power' mean? Don’t ask a matriculant
Diagnostics report on last year's matric exams does not paint a pretty picture
One-word answers to analytical questions and the inability to understand question verbs were among the most basic problems for matriculants in final exams last year.
In the history exam, for instance, the term “black power” stumped the matriculants as many candidates were unable to define the concept in their own words.
This is according to a more than 400-page long diagnostic report that has been released by the Department of Basic Education. It describes how 2017 matrics struggled and succeeded in the 10 most popular matric papers, and in the 11 official languages and in English second language papers.The summary of the report claims an improvement in many of the subjects, but, upon a closer reading of the report, it becomes clear that matrics faced the same problems as in previous years.
It found that candidates did not understand question verbs such as “justify”, “suggest”, “compare”, “comment” and “explain”.
Overall, it suggests that matrics pass despite not being able to read well, do basic calculations, or give more than one-word answers to detailed questions.
It says teachers are not using real-world examples in teaching – and this is why economics students could not explain how economic growth could improve the standard of living.
Language remains a huge stumbling block for matrics. The exact same problem occurred as in 2016, when many matriculants couldn’t explain the term “amnesty” in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In a paper on agricultural sciences, the report says: “Teachers are strongly advised to expose learners to the key verbs such as ‘comment’ and ‘justify’ and ‘suggest’.”
In Geography: “Some candidates did not heed the command words used in these questions, thus offering poor answers”, and, “diagrams drawn were generally not of a high standard”.
In Life Sciences: “Some candidates had problems distinguishing between action verbs, especially between describe and explain.”
The accounting exams analysis pointed out that pupils did not have a basic knowledge of the subject: “Examination papers contain a number of arithmetical calculations, e.g. positive/negative signs, rands/cents, percentages and ratios. Understanding the logic of these calculations is essential.”
In agricultural studies: “It is very disappointing that some Grade 12 candidates cannot confidently handle these basic applications or calculations such as dividing by 1,000 to convert kilograms into tons.”
In history: “Several candidates were unable to use the relevant information from the sources and their own knowledge to write a logical and coherent paragraph.”
In a history question on the civil rights movement in America, it says: “Some candidates were unable to take a stance. They were incapable of demonstrating how the various forms of protests by civil rights activists were successful in ensuring that all Americans were treated equally in the USA in the 1960s.”
In another history question, “many candidates were unable to define the concept ‘black power’ in their own words”.The majority of pupils also could not comment on the role that the Black Panther newspaper played in African American communities.
The report notes that there was some improvement in some subjects, but adds: “It is a cause for concern that in many schools, learners had a mediocre understanding of the subject matter and this translated into poor quality responses and misconceptions.”
The report urges teachers to expose pupils to a wide array of exercises that also include questions that assess higher order thinking skills...