The 2021 Grade 12 learners have improved their performance in mathematics and physical science by more than three percentage point better than their 2020 counterparts, said minister of basic education, Ms Angie Motshekga on Thursday when she announced the 2021 matric results. The 2021 NSC overall pass rate is 76.4% a slight improvement of 0.2% to the 2020 pass rate.
International maths and science tests
Ms Motshekga said the achievement of the class of 2021 in the two gateway subjects is a testimony to government’s commitment to prioritise equipping South African learners with relevant 21st Century skills and knowledge for the rapidly changing world. In addition, Ms Motshekga said the improved performance of the learners in mathematics and science is in line with “notable improvements patterns observed at the Grade 5 and Grade 9 levels in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) over the last 10 years.
TIMMS is a reliable and credible assessment that measures the knowledge of learners in maths and science across the globe. Over the years South African learners have been lagging their counterparts in mathematics and physical sciences. In the 2019 TIMMS South African got second last position in maths and last in science out of the 39 countries. At the time, Motshekga blamed the poor performance on the country’s weak foundation phase education. She said the DBE will focus on improving the quality of the foundation phase of South Africa’s education system to enable the learners to compete favourably with learners from other nations.
According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) 2021 technical report on the ‘schools subject report’, 233 315 learners sat for the mathematics in 2020 and 125 526 achieved 30-100% translating into 53.8% passes. In 2021 the number of the learners who wrote maths increased to 259 143 with 149 177 achieving 30-100% and this pushed the pass rate to 57.6%. Similarly, in 2020 174 310 wrote physical science of which 114 310 achieved 30-100% bringing the pass rate to 65.8%. The following year, 196 968 wrote physical science and 135 915 achieved 30-100%, which translated into 69.0.
Ms Motshekga said the DBE also ensures that the education system is attuned to the evolving demands and requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To achieve this goal, Ms Motshekga has introduced certain subjects to the curriculum and made them examinable in the Grade 12 NSC examination. The latest to be added to the curriculum is the marine sciences subject. Other technical vocational specialisations include technical mathematics and technical sciences. Motshekga said there has been noticeable improvement in the 2021 national senior certificate results particularly in both technical sciences and technical mathematics.
Hostile COVID-19 atmosphere
Ms Motshekga praised the 2021 matric cohort saying they worked hard to produce a remarkable pass rate despite the devastating and hostile COVID-19 environment, adding “that none of the previous cohorts of learners were ever exposed to [this] in the past”. She said the learners should be commended for maintaining the trend of producing above 70% pass rate during one of the most challenging times. With the inclusion of the progressed learners, the 2021 NSC overall pass rate stands at 76.4% – this is an improvement of 0.2% from the pass rate of the 2020 cohort. Without the progressed learners, the overall pass rate stands at 79.8% – just 0.2% away from the much coveted 80% pass rate.
Delicate balancing act
Ms Motshekga said the department was faced with the onerous task of saving lives of both teachers and learners on the one hand and the curriculum on the other – a tricky and delicate balance to strike.
Said Ms Motshekga: “We focused on saving lives against the novel COVID-19, while focusing on improving the quality and efficiency learning and teaching outcomes. We continued with the differentiated timetabling; the trimmed curriculum delivery for the school communities below Grade 12; the regular provisioning of school feeding and psychosocial services; as well as the extra tuition and support provided to the matric Class of 2021.” She said all these efforts were intended to mitigate the risks that were brought about by the prolonged absence of learners from schooling.