The National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA) is adamant that the current education system is failing young people in preparing them to enter the formal job market. NEASA views the latest matric results as a skewed reflection of learners' ability to join South Africa’s workforce, the main reason being that the majority of them do not have the basic skill set that employers are looking for.
'Over and above an insufficient technical curriculum, the current curriculum does not give priority to vocational training, resulting in a situation where the education system fails to supply potential workers with basic skills such as reading and writing that employers need for clerical work,' says Gerhard Papenfus, NEASA CEO.
Research shows that the biggest challenge facing the school system is learners' unsatisfactory language, comprehension and numeracy skills. Last year only 2% of grade nines achieved more than 50% in numeracy skills and only 17% achieved more than 50% in an additional language subject. This trend continues as learners proceed to higher grades.
'Without these skills it is unlikely that employers will give these prospective employees work opportunities,' Papenfus said.
Papenfus points out that within the current inflexible South African labour law dispensation, employers cannot afford to appoint someone who's likely without the necessary skills required to fulfil that which is needed for the specific position. In actual fact, and with good reason, employers regard some matric certificates with great suspicion.
'NEASA therefore agrees with University of Free State vice chancellor Jonathan Jansen that the pass rate should be raised to 50% and not the current rate of 30% in some subjects and 40% in others. I fully support this notion, however the 50% should be deserving and reliable and not a politically correct manipulated pass rate,’ Papenfus says.
It is highly irresponsible of government to create expectations of a better future among matriculants while sending them out into society without tertiary clearance and unsuitable for the labour market. NEASA believes this negates any potential and unlikely positive spin offs the recently introduced youth wage subsidy may have.
'The ANC's obsession with transformation has resulted in them taking their eye off the proverbial educational ‘ball’ and failing our children and South Africa in the process. The critical question remains whether learners are practically qualified for further studies, whether they're competent to enter the labour market and off course, whether there are jobs for them. South Africa is performing dismally in all of these areas at this stage,' Papenfus said.
The fact that certain children, many from previously disadvantaged communities, are excelling academically is proof enough that manipulation of marks are uncalled for. Learners should understand that disciplined hard work is the only route to success, not artificially manipulated grades. Therefore, government's greatest priority should be to establish a world-class education system with well qualified teachers and a disciplined learning environment.
'This is what should occupy the government's attention for the foreseeable future and not short term political goals,' Papenfus said.
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