The 'Born Frees' matriculate
A generation born of hope. A generation meant to catapult the country towards a better future.
Children born in 1994, a year that marked the birth of South Africa’s democracy are generally referred to as the ‘Born Free’ generation. This special group of young men and women finished their basic education careers in 2012. For many South Africans who saw the walls and government that segregated the country crumble, this symbolised not only a new beginning, but a better path for all who called this country home.
Dreams of a flourishing country, yearnings to forget South Africa’s legacy of apartheid and several injustices were all put on this group of free children. It seems not only ideas of a better education but more equality, employment and ultimately a complete turnaround of the country’s legacy, which included political and social injustices were also planted along the path the ‘Born Frees’ had to walk.
Armed with an optimistic outlook, over a million ‘Born Frees’ registered for Grade 1 in 2001, but a quick look at those faces in 2012 and just under half of them didn’t make it to the end of the basic education system.
In 2012 a total of 527 335 full-time learners wrote the Basic Education paper to qualify for the National Senior Certificate. Beyond the expectations, which they might or might not meet, Government’s ‘Born Frees’ will constantly be compared to their Independent Examinations Board counterparts. 9 493 IEB learners received their results on the 29th of December 2012 and managed to score a 98.2% pass rate - an improvement from the previous year’s results of 96.15%.
Professor Francis Faller, the acting Deputy Head of the Department of Education at WITS University says to truly measure the quality of education the ‘Born Frees’ have received, people should look beyond the Matrics. “Matrics can’t be looked at in isolation. There should be a correlation, an interrelation between their final year of study and all the other grades as well as the options offered to them by institutions of higher learning,” he says.
Although Faller acknowledges that good results from those who wrote the 2012 exams will be greatly welcomed, a thought has to be spared for the other half of the 2001 Grade 1 class. He focuses on those who didn’t make it to last year’s exam room and says reasons as to why they didn’t make it to Matric have to be studied. He also expresses concern about the rate of school dropouts, especially among learners between grades 9 to 11.
Faller speaks of a system that allows constant assessment of the pupils’ performances, which he believes is necessary if South Africa is to accurately measure its learners' development. “That way we get to measure the education system as a whole. The Matric results don’t reflect everything about the education system.”
Faller also refers to the 2012 Annual Assessment results which he says were alarming. Again he places emphasis on the Grade 9’s, saying their performance in subjects focusing on languages and Maths was worrying. But beyond the shock of the results, he believes this is the best way to improve the quality of the country’s education.
Faller doesn’t think schooling disruptions and stories such as the Limpopo textbook saga will affect this class but he warns of the impact that constant disruptions might have on future matriculants.
Moving forward, Faller says it’s important to remain concerned about how learners perform when it come to the gateway subjects such as Maths. He adds higher education also needs to be jacked up to offer those matriculating more options.
The skills level of teachers, need to be tweaked in order to provide learners with better equipped teachers and there must be constant evaluation of those educators, which will ensure that the standard of education being provided remains high.
Clearly these ‘Born Frees’ aren’t the answer that the country’s been praying for.Perhaps after a few more years, South Africa will start churning out the type of results it wants to truly shape the tomorrow it has always envisioned.
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