Turning Disappointment Into Opportunities
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister for Education in the Western Cape.
Premier Helen Zille
Minister Ivan Meyer
SG Penny Vinjevold, DDGs and other senior officials from WCED
Jenny Hartnick, Chairperson of the Provincial Standing Committee on Education
Members of Governing Body Associations, the exam board, and teacher union representatives
Principals and teachers representing schools receiving awards today.
Grade 12 learners who will be honoured today, and their parents
Representatives of Maskew Millar Longman, Mustek and Mr Bez Sangari, who have generously contributed to the prizes of today's event.
Ladies and Gentlemen
When our administration came into office in May last year, we knew we had inherited an education system that was in distress based on an assessment of a number of basic, but deep seated indicators. This was also evident in the gradual decline of our National Senior Certificate (NSC) pass rate, from 85.1% in 2004 to 78.6% in 2008.
Not surprisingly, it has not been possible to reverse this decline in a very short period and I have this morning to announce a disappointing further 2,9% decrease from 78.6% to 75.7%.
Of the 44 931 learners who wrote the full examination, 34 017 learners passed.
Another disappointment is the number of learners who qualified for bachelors' degree, diploma or certificate studies.
A total of 14 324 (31.9%) qualified for access to studies for bachelors' degrees, compared to 14 512 (33%) in 2008.
A total of 12 677 candidates qualified for access to diploma studies and 6 988 for certificates. In 2008, 12 842 candidates qualified for diploma studies and 7 108 for the certificate.
19 210 learners sat Mathematics this year. 12 467 passed (64.9%) compared to 13 003 (65.2%) in 2008.
The Physical Science result is also very concerning. Of the 13 349 learners who sat the Physical Sciences paper this year; only 7 064 (52.9%) passed: this is a dramatic decrease from last year where 9 690 learners passed with a percentage pass rate of 71.2%.
There will be a comprehensive analysis of all the results over the coming days.
It is obvious by these results that we have a long way to go before ensuring that all the learners of the Western Cape achieve the kinds of quality passes that will improve their life chances and provide for better opportunities and choices.
In her State of the Province Address last May, Premier Zille said that we must resolve to turn failures into an opportunity and change the way we operate.
These results strengthen our resolve to strive unflinchingly towards implementing our ten key objectives of the strategic plan for education which we announced late last year.
The strategic plan outlines how the Provincial Government intends to improve education outcomes and provides specific targets for improvement in literacy and numeracy, National Senior Certificate examination results and under-performing schools. This is a bold and necessary initiative which no other provincial or national administration has undertaken. Today's announcement confirms that we were wise to do so.
We have set targets for the numbers of learners passing and the pass rate, and in the numbers of learners who will qualify for access to further studies. Another performance area that we have targeted is the number of learners passing mathematics and science. While we regard all 29 subjects of the NSC as important, we know that these two subjects are in short supply for the kinds of skills we need to grow the economy of the province and South Africa and remain key gateway learning areas.
Today's results provide us with a baseline to measure real performance over the next ten years, and, through a sustained, focused and systematic approach we will achieve the targets that we have set.
I have ensured that our Head of Department, Penny Vinjevold, will meet with the eight district directors tomorrow to further cement our turnaround strategy for education in the province.
In particular, we will place special emphasis on ensuring that our plan dramatically improves performance at our under-performing secondary schools, particularly in Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu and surrounding areas.
We simply cannot continue to have the intolerable situation where the majority of these schools are not in a position to provide the quality of education that all learners are entitled to.
We will therefore leave no stone unturned to ensure that we reach our target of eliminating underperforming and dysfunctional high schools by 2014. We will do this in a targeted and explicit way by ensuring that each school has a set of individual targets and outcomes to achieve.
I also wish to underscore that a massive effort has been made to ensure that schools are ready to open next week and that teachers are prepared, texts are available and learners are motivated to meet the challenges they face in the year ahead.
We have 200 days of tuition in 2010, and we intend to spend everyday ensuring 'time on task' and delivering a quality curriculum to the 1 million learners of the Province. It is important in this regard that we have the support and co-operation of key players such as learners, their parents, educator unions and SGBs.
But, whilst we are disappointed with the overall NSC pass rate for the Western Cape, today is a day to celebrate the extraordinary levels of excellence in education and outstanding achievement that continue to exist in this province.
I am pleased that the Western Cape still provides the school system with the highest pass rate in the country and that 144 schools achieved a pass rate of 95% or more.
It is also pleasing to note that more learners are being retained within the system, instead of dropping out before they reach Grade 12. In 2008, 43 957 candidates wrote the examinations, compared to 44 931 in 2009. This is a trend that we need to continue. A trend that we are determined to increase to 50 000 learners in 2019.
I would like to congratulate all the learners in the Province that have passed their examinations.
Writing and passing your Grade 12 examinations is one of the more important milestones in your lives to date. Many of you have reached this point despite living and learning in very difficult circumstances. This is a testimony to your courage and perseverance.
The result of your hard work and the hours you have put in will have profound effects on the direction your life takes.
I sincerely hope that all our successful learners continue to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and that many doors will open to a brighter future. Learning is a lifelong commitment and passing the NSC is simply the beginning of a new and exciting phase of your life.
To those learners who are disappointed with their results, please know that this is not the end of the road. We will do everything to assist you in improving your results in 2010, should you, hopefully, choose to do so.
Today, we have twenty learners sitting before us who have the distinction of being the twenty top provincial performers for the 2009 NSC examinations. This is an outstanding achievement and I wish to congratulate each and every one of you.
You have worked hard for this moment and I wish you all the success for your future.
It is deeply regrettable that, because of the limited time available in which to do the necessary calculations, the top performing learners from schools in previously disadvantaged communities are unable to join us today. In many respects, their achievements are the most noteworthy, as these learners have to overcome a number of barriers to excel, as they have shown to have done so in these examinations.
I give the commitment that as soon as the analysis and the available data is completed, I will personally ensure that these learners are given the recognition they so richly deserve.
Congratulations to the ten best performing schools in the province. You are an example to us all. Our challenge is to ensure that we increase the number of schools who perform at this truly world-class level.
Lifting the quality of education in our most disadvantaged schools is a major priority of ours, therefore, a special mention must be made of the schools in quintiles one to three, who have excelled academically in often very difficult socio-economic circumstances.
These include schools like Hexvallei Sekondêre, which saw its pass rate improve from 46.8% to an outstanding 82.2%. This improvement is especially praiseworthy given that the number of candidates that wrote this years NSC examination is almost double than that of the previous year. Similarly, ID Mkize Senior Secondary saw an increase from 62.3% to 80.3%, with also a substantial increase in learners who sat the examinations.
A number of other schools achieved remarkable improvements in academic performance. These include Worcester Sekondare, Groendal Sekondêre and Villiersdorp Sekondare.
I would like to end by thanking those people who made the celebrations of today possible.
Firstly, to the learners for their hard work and to the teachers and principals for their professionalism and dedication.
To all our examination officials, who, under the leadership of Brian Schreuder and his colleagues, Tina Singh, Andre Clausen, Zodwa Modimakwane and their teams, made this examination process a major success.
I saw for myself what a major operation this is and I would like to thank all the invigilators, markers, examiners, teachers, principals and administrative staff for their dedication and commitment in ensuring that the integrity of these examinations were upheld.
Finally, to the WCED and the office of the Premier for organising this wonderful event.
I know that many of the arrangements could only be made at the last minute, and we are all highly appreciative for your efforts in this regard.
I would like to end by wishing you all a Happy New Year. Although we have some major challenges ahead, I am looking forward to a productive and positive year.