Premier Zille: We Are Making Good, Credible Progress on Quality Education
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille addressed the province’s annual Matric Awards Function, held at Leeuwenhof in Cape Town on Thursday, 12 January 2017.
The province yet again improved on its matric pass rate, achieving 86% - an increase of 1.3% from 2015.
Premier Zille said it is critical to assess the pass rate alongside the retention rate – the ratio of learners who stay in the system and do not drop out. The Western Cape had the highest retention rate in SA – 64.13%.
“It is easy to improve pass rates by allowing learners to drop out of the system. It is much more difficult to encourage kids to stay in school, to come early, stay late, or take Saturday classes. Our pass rate, and our retention rate is up – a critical combination for good, credible progress in quality education.”
The province achieved a Bachelor’s pass rate of 40.9%, the highest in SA. Record breaking pass rates were also achieved in mathematics (77.2%), and Physical Science (73.8%).
A further indicator of success is the reduction of underperforming schools, which decIined yet again from 27 in 2015 to 19 in 2016. Every District in the Western Cape achieved a pass rate of over 80%. The Overberg District achieved 92.61%, the highest in SA, with the country’s top learner, Conrad Strydom, also hailing from that district.
Premier Zille also lauded the marked increases in distinctions and pass rates of schools serving poorer communities (known as Quintile 1 – 3 schools).
When the current administration took office in 2009, the pass rate in Quintile 1 schools was 57% - in 2016 it was 75%. Stark pass rate rises of over 18 percentage points were also recorded in Quintile 2 and 3 schools.
This year’s top achieving learner in Physical Science - Siphelele Xabendlini – hails from Phundulwazi Secondary school in Phillipi, a Quintile 1 school. Siphelele achieved no less than 100% for science.
“There is no doubt that we are on the right path. Back in 2009 it was unthinkable to hear of 5 or 6 distinctions achieved in disadvantaged schools. It is happening now, not because the standards are dropping - believe me, we competency test all matric markers. It’s happening because quality is improving. To the learners – you are the pathbreakers, the bright shining stars that are the beacon of inspiration for everybody else,” said Premier Zille.
Premier Zille stressed the importance of a “whole of society” approach to improving education, telling the story of Mfuleni Secondary School, which drastically improved its pass rate.
“In 2014 Mfuleni Secondary got a 50.6% pass rate. The principal, Mr Malungisa Mlotywa, his team and WCED staff put together a plan to improve education in their area. Teachers, learners and parents committed to an after-school programme. Learners stayed longer, started much earlier in the morning, and worked on weekends. By 2015, the pass rate was up to 79.6%, even though more learners wrote the matric exam. The Mfuleni Education Forum, a community group, also stood in front of the school gates to ensure that systemic testing was not disrupted. This year the school achieved 87.3% - a remarkable turnaround in 2 years.”
The Premier also referred to the province’s ambitious strategic programmes for progress in quality education.
“The WCED is working hard to land our eLearning Game Changer, ramping up this programme to ensure that the digital divide is not something that affects children in our schools. We are running further game changers focusing on quality after-school programming, and linking young people to critical skills training,” said Zille.
“The struggle was about more than freedom – it was about freedom you can actually use, to live a life you value. That is what our department, together with school communities, is helping our learners to achieve.”
“Today we celebrate, tomorrow the hard work begins. We must keep making progress so that South Africa can be the success we all know it can be,” the Premier concluded.