Effects of COVID-19 on basic education will have lasting impact - expert

On Wednesday, almost 900,000 pupils tackled their first exam after months of trial and error brought on by the pandemic.

Matriculants at the Noordwyk Secondary School on the first day of the 2021 National Senior Certificate final examinations. Picture: @David_Makhura/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - While the focus has shifted to matriculants at the start of their final exams, an education expert said the effects of COVID-19 on overall learning would be long lasting and not just for this group.

On Wednesday, almost 900,000 pupils tackled their first exam after months of trial and error brought on by the pandemic.

There've been COVID related losses, health and safety requirements, hybrid learning models and budget adjustments to navigate among many factors.

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- Minister Motshekga wishes matric class of 2021 well for final exams

Education systems around the world have had to adapt to what's now termed the new normal thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it's not just school leavers who'll feel the brunt as education expert Mary Metcalfe explained: “The grade 12s are going to perform on the basis of their previous 12 years. So, we need to brace ourselves to realise that the system is putting a huge effort into supporting the grade 12s. But the grade 12s of this year are the grade 11s of last year who missed as much as half of the year. And the grade 12s of 2022 were the grade 10s, and so the story goes on.”

Metcalfe said COVID's impact on foundational learning and on the early grades of high school would require serious attention and dedicated contributions, not only from the education system but from families and communities.

She believes the focus shouldn't be solely on the matric pass rate as the indicator of quality in the education system: “We've got to start looking at education more broadly than the grade 12 results.”

But Metcalfe has also commended those who've sought solutions by availing time, resources and other support structures to learners.

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