Matric students lack the skills and competencies for university

A recent study has shown that high school matric results are generally a poor indicator of 1st year university performance. In order to improve upon the performance of university students would require that the Department of Basic Education equip high school students with the required skills and competencies as outlined in the department’s policy documents. Students entering university are ill-equipped and do not possess these basic skills and competencies to succeed at university.

Michèle Stears and Angela James from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s undertook the study to identify whether or not Grade 12 life science results were any indication of their competence at first-year in relation to their knowledge and skills levels. They concluded that poor performance amongst students was not a new phenomena amongst university students in South Africa.

The study did indicate that scholars competency level in certain sub jest was poor and lower than the required level as stated in Department of Basic Education policy documents.

According o the study the lack of competencies in certain areas and skills along with failure at a university is having a debilitating effect on students live and their levels of self confidence. Student complete high school and enter tertiary institutions with high hopes and expectations only to be confronted by the reality that they did not possess the skills or competencies to succeed at university.

In the study, Michèle Stears and Angela James recommended that in order to improve on students 1st year performance results would take a two pronged approach. Firstly, high school students should be  equipped by the schools with required skills and competencies prior to graduating. Secondly, higher education institutions should assist by creating an environment that enables high school students a far better and smoother transition into higher education.

The study did take into account the  degree of transformation that has been achieved since 1994 within the education system. Matric results are one indicator to display how the South African education system has transformed and improved since the demise of apartheid.

Students that completed high school in 2010 were the first set of students who completed school based on Curriculum 2005 (one of many changes to post-apartheid school curriculum reforms). There was enormous reservation and uncertainty about the skills and competencies of scholars under an outcomes-based education orientated system.

In order to arrive at their results and conclusions, the study compared results of 1st year life sciences students in 2011 and compared these to students who registered in 2009 and 2010. Stears and James said; “learners achieving 80% to 100% in their biology school-leaving examination had the skills to suggest specific changes to experimental design and provide conclusions showing awareness of data uncertainty, and could analyse problems and provide solutions as well as evaluate the relevance of biotechnological applications to life sciences.”

From the study, student showed evidence that they could also come to the conclusion and critically evaluate the application of scientific and indigenous knowledge locally in South Africa and globally. Students  could also develop justifiable and responsible positions on the influences of different beliefs, attitudes and values in various communities, as well as evaluate and give recommendations on the impact of scientific and technological processes and products on different communities.

For those students that achieved a 60% to 79% had the ability to  “analyse, reflect on and evaluate findings of an investigation and identify and allow for irregular observations when displaying data, debate and show how concepts, principles, laws, theories and models influenced one’s behaviour, analyse the application of scientific and indigenous knowledge in the South African context and debate the influence of beliefs, attitudes and values among communities.”

Results of students who enrolled for life sciences in 2008, only 36% were able to achieve a grade higher than 70% for biology in matric. In 2009 this same figure  rose to 43% while in 2010 it went up to 53%.

The study also showed that only 21% of student in the 2011 class could link biology to the environment. When these stunted were asked to observe the environment, only 18% were able to observe green plants, 61% were not able to observe the object biology, while 54% of the students could not make a link between what they were observing and the relevance of the course they and taken.

The study states that only 10% of the class of 2008 failed the biology module. This figure dropped to 5% in 2009, however increased to 12% for student of 2010 class. This gave more clout for those people and groups who have been arguing and stating that matric results in 2010 were manipulated by the Department of Basic Education.

Source: University World News


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