Mmusi Maimane launches online petition to end 30% matric pass mark

One South Africa OSA leader Mmusi Maimane
OSA leader Mmusi Maimane. Image credit: Flickr/GovernmentZA

One South Africa (OSA) leader Mmusi Maimane has launched an online petition calling on the government to end the 30 percent matric pass mark.

Maimane announced the petition in a statement shared on his Twitter page on Friday (7 January) as the government prepares to release the 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC, popularly known as matric) results later this month.

Petition to end 30% matric pass mark

“With South Africa top of the youth unemployment crisis globally, the continued matric pass mark requirement of just 30 percent cannot continue a day longer,” Maimane states in the petition.

“A meagre 30 percent pass hurts our pupils, the education system and, in the long run, the economy.”

He added that the low pass mark obfuscates the basic education crisis in South Africa, allows education leaders to escape accountability and entrenches “mediocrity and low expectations.”

“We call on Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to increase the matric pass mark to 50 percent, to include the 2021 matric year results to be released this month,” Maimane said. 

‘Setting the record straight’

In an infographic shared on social media last week, however, Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga sought to “set the record straight” about the 30 percent matric pass mark.

“Outrage is often expressed over the fact that the lowest possible pass mark per subject is 30 percent. However, what is not fully understood is that no candidate can obtain an NSC certificate if he/she passes all seven subjects at 30 percent. The learner must pass at least three subjects at 40 percent,” Mhlanga explained.

“Arguments are made that raising this threshold to, say 50 percent, would improve the education system. However, the 2014 Ministerial Committee, which recommended several changes to the NSC, many of which have been followed through, did not recommend changing the lowest threshold.

“It is acceptable assessment practice to ensure that provision is made for different levels of achievement. All education systems have different levels of passes, not just one pass mark.”

Mhlanga further explained that Bachelor programmes at higher education institutions in South Africa require a learner to obtain at least 50 percent in four matric subjects, while diploma programmes require at least 40 percent in four subjects.

“Hence, it needs to be understood that candidates scoring 30 percent in most of the subjects will not qualify for admission to higher education institutions,” he concluded.

At the time of publishing this article, Maimane’s petition had gained more than 2,600 signatures.

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