File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Grade 10 ‘dropouts’ still a worry

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Sep 14, 2021

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Johannesburg – The long-standing and emotion-stirring issue of higher repetition and dropouts in Grade 10 still spooks the country’s education system, years after the Department of Basic Education strongly rejected claims schools “culled” learners.

A new report by Stellenbosch University-based Research on Socio-Economic Policy (Resep) has detailed repetition and dropouts remained the highest in Grade 10.

Resep’s senior researchers, Servaas van der Berg, Chris van Wyk, Rebecca Selkirk and Heleen Hofmeyr, analysed official data gathered for the Learner Unit Record and Tracking System (Lurits) data system for their study.

The high repetition and dropout problem mostly affected schools in poor communities, the study found.

This meant learners attending a school in either rural, informal or township communities stood a greater chance of not reaching matric than their suburban counterparts.

Education authorities faced criticism some years ago that schools culled weaker learners in Grade 10, a practice that critics said was intended to secure better matric pass rates for schools and districts.

The national department rejected the criticism, insisting no such practice took place.

“We reject his assertion that learners were culled,” it said in 2013. “It’s a mischievous accusation aimed at diverting attention from the constructive analysis arising from the gains made by the education system in recent years.”

But Resep found repetitions and dropouts in Grade 10 remained high. There appeared to be a “gatekeeping” practice in the grade, the report said.

“The high repetition rate in Grade 10, especially, confirms that Grade 10 is a big hurdle on the road to matric – roughly one in four learners who enrol in Grade 10 will repeat this grade, according to the 2017 and 2018 Lurits data,” said the study.

It said repetition rates decreased sharply in Grades 11 and 12.

“The decrease in repetition rates between Grade 10 and Grade 12 are therefore further indicative of Grade 10 being a ‘gatekeeping’ grade, where the greatest number of learners are held back, and the majority of those repeaters drop out of the system before reaching Grade 12.”

The study pointed out because the Lurits data was anonymised, it was difficult to determine with certainty whether the cohort that dropped out in Grade 10 were lost to education altogether. But the repetition and dropout pattern reflected the inefficiencies of the education system, said the report.

“High dropout rates mean that a large proportion of learners who start school in South Africa will never reach matric,” said the report.

“This situation is especially troubling when one considers that the National Senior Certificate or matric examination is the only widely recognised school-level qualification in South Africa.”

Repetitions and dropouts were also the highest in poorer schools. “Given unequal access to quality schooling, children in poorer schools are less likely to master basic skills of literacy and numeracy, giving rise to learning deficits which make it challenging to keep pace with the curriculum, thus leading to higher repetition rates in these schools.”

The Star

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