Angie mulls lowering pass mark

By Aretha Linden

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga wants the pass mark for home languages in Grades 7, 8 and 9 to be dropped from 50% to 40% – a proposal that has been welcomed by one of the teachers’ unions in the Eastern Cape.

Currently, pupils in the three grades are required to achieve at least 50% (level 4) for their home language, 40% (level 3) in their second language and 40% (level 3) in four other subjects to move to the next grade.

Pupils in these grades can do up to nine subjects.

However, Motshekga has proposed that in order to proceed to the next grade, pupils will need to achieve 40% in four subjects including their home language and 30% in any three other subjects.

Last Friday, Motshekga published a government gazette and called for written submissions from members of the public to be made within 21 days of her proposed amendment.

Speaking to the Daily Dispatch this week, South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Chris Mdingi said the union would “embrace” this move.

Mdingi said the promotion requirements in these grades were too high and it had been proven over time that they were unreasonable.

“The pass mark for home language used to be 40% in the past, so this is like going back to basics and doing the right thing,” said Mdingi, adding that it was unfair to set a pass mark that was above 40%.

Asked whether the drop in the pass mark would not lower the standards of education in public schools, Mdingi said if the quality of teaching was improved, then the standards would not drop.

Education researcher from the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), Siyabulela Fobosi, said before Motshekga looked at lowering the pass mark she should look at improving the quality of education from Grade R onwards, especially in rural schools.

“Reducing the pass mark will not address the challenges facing the Department of Basic Education. PSAM would like to point the minister to the fact that learners from disadvantaged back-grounds perform poorly because they are enrolled in schools with fewer resources, such as education materials and staff,” said Fobosi.

Basic Education spokes-man Elijah Mhlanga said the proposals would align pass requirements with those of Grades 10 to 12.

“What we did previously was step one, which focused on Grade 10, 11 and 12. Now it’s the turn of Grade 7, 8 and 9. It’s being done to align the minimum pass requirements across the senior phase,” he said.

Mhlanga said the changes were part of work started years ago towards implementation of the curriculum and assessment policy statement.

He indicated that more changes would come and admitted that some mistakes were made along the way.

“We will conduct a comprehensive review of the whole curriculum and adjust accordingly in due time,” he added. —

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