Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 5 August 2008

FIVE CHANGES FOR EDUCATION

Grade nine certificate on the cards

ANGELIQUE SERRAO
Johannesburg

From next year every grade nine pupil will write a national certificate whether they leave school or not.

This was one of five major policy changes announced by education minister Naledi Pandor yesterday. Other changes include proposals to:
· Lower teacher-pupil ratios;
· Rearrange districts into smaller more manageable areas;
· Get internet into every school by 2013; and
· Expand further education and training colleges.

But an education expert said that although these changes were positive, they would make little difference to the poor academic performance of children.

The new policy will ensure that every grade nine pupil will get a general education certificate if they decide to leave school before matric. The exams, which will take place at the end of the grade 9 year, will see pupils writing a national paper set for both English and maths and internal exams for the other subjects.
“Now they will be able to have a measurement of how ready they are to proceed to grade 10,” Pandor said.

The department also announced that it wanted to reduce class sizes so that classes had less than 40 children to one teacher. Education spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele said the ideal was a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:35, but at present some schools had as many as 60 children in one class. The new policy will now allow up to 5% of teacher posts to be distributed in a “pro-poor” manner.

Another policy, which is set to shake up the education sector, is the rearranging of districts. Each school district will now be based on a smaller geographic area, along municipal lines, and will be composed of 300 schools. Under these districts there will now also be sub-districts that will have 30 schools each.

The department is also planning to expand the 50 further education and training colleges in the country. At present 14 000 students are enrolled at these colleges, but the department aims to get one million students into colleges by 2014.

In addition, Pandor said a feasibility report had been done to see whether it was possible to get internet technology into all schools by 2013.
“The report indicates that it is possible to reach our target, but some provinces have fallen behind. These are the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo,” said Pandor.

Education expert Jonathan Jansen said while he believed it was a good idea to give grade nines a single certificate, he felt that the changes were politically pleasing but would not do much to change education.
“I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that this will have no effect on the bottom line, which is poor academic achievement in schools,” said Jansen
”The problem is that none of these things begin to address the very serious problem of children experiencing a different education system depending on where they are placed.”