University “isn’t the only choice”

Amid the Covid outbreak and disrupted schooling, education experts hailed the 76.4% matric pass rate in 2021 on Friday as representative of good outcomes, but cautioned against a prevailing societal expectation that all successful students would be absorbed into universities.

Independent education expert Mary Metcalfe and associate professor of mathematics at the University of JohannesburgNicky Roberts’ Early Childhood Education Department said they expected a much lower pass rate,
given the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Metcalfe said she was excited about the 0.2% increase in pass rate. Compared to the 2020 results, this was unexpected because “the class of 2021 lost so much time in grade 11 – requiring an enormous amount of learning to
catch up”.

“We have a society that too quickly excludes students who are struggling to learn,” she said.

“The fact that almost 40% of progressing students have passed suggests that we need to do more to include struggling students in high school.”

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With universities facing an influx of freshmen, not everyone will be easily absorbed.

“There will be more matriculants than usual who have met the minimum standards for applying to a university by achieving grades good enough to qualify for baccalaureate admission, which will put more pressure on universities” , Metcalfe said.

“Universities have quotas set by the Department of Higher Education for the number of students they can take for each course.

“It’s related to funding. If they exceed the quotas, they have to foot the cost bill.

“Universities will select students who they believe have the best chance of succeeding based on their grades.”

She said the societal expectation that all successful students should go to university “needs to be challenged in many societies, not just South Africa”.

“In countries like Germany, there is an earlier orientation within the system to direct young people towards university as one option, but technical and vocational as other options. We need to strengthen the initiative,” she said.

Metcalfe called on the government to invest resources and money in early childhood education.

“We shouldn’t just look at the quality of our education system at the end point without acknowledging that these kids have had 18 years of stimulation from their parents to prepare for graduation,” she said. .

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“There is a much greater need for us to invest in publicly acceptable early childhood education and support for parents caring for young children.

“After completing the baccalaureate, a student has the option of continuing their education, working or becoming unemployed,” she said.

“That’s why I argue that having a passing grade is useless.

“We should give everyone a certificate and put their marks on that certificate and they go out into the world to further their education, work or be unemployed.

“There are plenty of opportunities for further study, going into a FET college or learning like the old apprenticeship run by the Sector Education and Training Authority. You don’t need to have matric to do this.

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