As Free State maintains its top spot for the fifth year in a row in the National Senior Certificate results, the province’s education MEC, Makalo Mohale, is looking beyond the pass rate of matriculants to the future that awaits them beyond grade 12.
Mohale, who was appointed to the portfolio shortly after his predecessor Tate Makgoe died in a car accident in March last year, says the province’s pass rate and its top position in the matric exams are only a portion of the indicators of the success of basic education.
For Mohale, the high drop-out rate reflected in the province’s overall throughput of 65.8% for the Class of 2023 must come down. The number of pupils who completed matric in the stipulated time was only 63.5% at no-fee schools, that is, those situated in poor communities.
For fee-paying schools in Free State, the throughput rate is 70.9%, and it is 100% for independent schools. “No learner must be left behind,” says Mohale, a lawyer who was serving as the MEC for economic, small business development, tourism, and environmental affairs until March last year. He says stereotypes about the technical and occupational streams also need to be challenged and changed if the province is to realise its goals of producing grade 12 pupils who have the skills needed to grow the economy. To deal with the stereotypes, he galvanises all education stakeholders to echo the same message: from teachers to parents, “the whole society must be behind the objectives of the skills revolution”.
“Technical subjects are not for those who are not clever enough for maths and physical science. We need artisans… that conversation cannot start at institutions of higher learning… it needs to start here [at schools].
He adds that partnerships with industry are helpful in order to expose children to different careers. “In most of our activities, we have industries to expose children to different careers. Pupils are surprised when someone drives a nice car but is dressed in overalls to talk to them about their career. We need skills that are relevant to the economy.”
He says other subjects are also infused with practical aspects, just as schools do with science, as part of the intervention to get pupils to gain more knowledge about it. “It cannot be that the first time our children see a cash book is after completing their schooling.”
Mohale says success in matric also means sufficiently equipping pupils so that even if they don’t reach higher education after grade 12, they are able to do something with their lives.
“The higher education sector cannot absorb all pupils,” he said, adding that the job-seeker’s mindset also needs to change to encourage business skills. “We need a mindset and capability to drive the economy as opposed to job-seekers,” he said.
“If you have a science or accounting pupil who did not go to university or college for whatever reason; they should sufficiently be qualified to do something with their lives,” he said.