It’s official: your matric certificate may be rubbish

19 March 2012

Jonathan Jansen, VC of Free State University, is a brave man.  He calls things as he sees them and does not subscribe to the political drivel that we have to swallow on a daily basis.  On yesterday’s Carte Blanche, he rubbished the value of the NSC/OBE matriculation examination as a farce and a scam – something many academics have known since OBE was mooted, but kept quiet. But then, this is a country where perfectly good terms such as ‘scholar’ and ‘pupil’ were replaced by the extremely-irritating use of the word ‘learner’.  I have been unable to find out what was behind that, other than an Afrikaans to English simplification of “leerling”?

Not so many years ago, matriculants achieving two distinctions in the Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) examination qualified for Academic Honours, the highest recognition a school could award.  Distinctions for languages were almost unheard of.  Nowadays, six, seven or eight distinctions are common-place, inclusive of both official languages – although some of the recipients that I have encountered struggle to compile decent sentences in their mother-tongue.  Such unbelievable academic prowess has come on the back of  a dumbed-down curriculum, leading to many University freshman admitting that they “are not as clever as we thought we were” (Carte Blanche).  Pass-rates have been ‘boosted’ by simply reducing the pass marks.  What were these educators and their political masters thinking? Who were the real idiots in this mix?

Science and mathematics, always difficult, have taken a huge beating.  This is especially felt at University level where the metamorphosis from matric to first year has always been daunting – unless you have benefited from A-levels in a post-matric year.  It must be frighteningly scary nowadays for those ‘graduating’ from the NSC stream.  The universities, for some while now, have not only had to deal with their normal curriculum, but also compensate for an inadequate high school education.  They don’t always get it right.  I have had science graduates apply for positions, only to be unable to answer simple questions such as “explain the difference between an acid and a base”.  An engineering masters graduate found it difficult to comprehend simple hydrological relationships.

So, the OBE fiasco has created a false impression of ability in so many – in fact an entire generation of scholars, black and white, has been disadvantaged.  Such disservice to youth, over and above all of the other problems we face, is  incalculably damaging.  As with all the other fiascos, where working systems (if it works, don’t mess with it) were fiddled with, we now have to play catch-up.  How long will this take?

We need many more people like Jonathan Jansen – and they must speak out early, before damage has been done!  My advice: sue the government for breach of promise!  Demand to not be fobbed off with a second-rate education.  And don’t be mislead by promises that a matric pass rate of anything below 65% qualifies you for basic entrance to a university!

 

 

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