Speech by Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Education Minister, at the annual NSC Awards ceremony at Leeuwenhof, Cape Town, residence of the Western Cape Premier
Premier Helen Zille
DG of the Western Cape Government, Brent Gerber
Superintendent-General Brian Schreuder
Chair of the Western Cape Education Standing Committee, Basil Kivedo, and other members
All Officials of the WCED
All dignitaries welcomed by the Superintendent-General
Representatives of the SGB associations
Representatives of our sponsors,
And most important of all, our newest matriculants
I am honoured and proud to be here to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding success of schools and individual learners from throughout the province in the 2017 National Senior Certificate examinations.
2017 was a very special year for me of course, with my only two children being part of the matric class of 2017. Two of our senior managers, Mr Tau Matseliso and Mr Makhosandile Ndzuzo, also joined me in this regard, with a son and daughter respectively among our 2017 cohort.
I am pleased that our offspring contributed to the province's success, with each of them attaining a bachelor's pass.
I am very proud of the learners and schools here today, and all those who have achieved outstanding results in the 2017 NSC.
On a cursory glance, we may not be happy that we have dropped in our pass percentage and in fact by a position on the "league table", but there is a quote by Plato in Phaedrus that says "Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden."
And when we examine the results in more detail, we have a lot to be proud about.
I am especially pleased that the Western Cape has again achieved the highest percentage of bachelor's passes in the country, with 39.1% of learners achieving this quality pass.
In Mathematics, the Western Cape achieved the highest pass rate of 73.9%.
In Physical Sciences, the Western Cape achieved a pass rate of 73.0%. This places us second in the Country to the Free State.
More learners in the Western Cape are taking maths and science as a percentage of the cohort, something that we have been encouraging over a number of years. While the overall cohort in the Western Cape was 2000 learners smaller than 2016, the number of learners taking maths and science only decreased by 703 and 329 respectively.
Congratulations must go to all of our 8 Education Districts which each, once again, achieved a pass rate of over 80%.
Special congratulations must also go again to the Overberg district that achieved 10th place in the country, out of 70 districts with a pass rate of 87.7%. Congratulations to the District Director, Bertram Loriston and his team.
When I refer to things not always being as they seem, I refer to the fact that pass percentages do not always accurately reflect the quality of the passes that are being achieved. They also do not take into account the retention rate of learners in the system, nor the subjects and subject combinations that learners are taking. When we look at these factors, a very different picture emerges.
Some commentators have called the pass rate including retention rates, the "real matric pass rate".
The results of the "real matric pass rate" for the 2017 NSC show a very different 'ranking' to that announced by the National Minister of Basic Education last week, with the Western Cape firmly in the Number 1 spot.
The Western Cape retained 64.3% of learners in the system from Grade 10 to matric, 12.8% more than Gauteng, and 22% more than the Free State.
In the Western Cape our focus will remain on whether we have increased the numbers and percentages of candidates passing, and the quality of those passes.
That does not mean, of course, that we are satisfied. We are going to continue assessing where we need to improve, and we will always aspire to the number one spot, but not at the expense of retaining as many learners in the system as we can, to give them a better start in life. That is, after all, what education is about.
Having said that, Free State and Gauteng must watch out! We are hard at work analysing where we need to improve, and we are committed to doing that.
But back to our excellent achievements.
I am proud of our schools that worked hard and consistently throughout the year, and in fact for many years.
Important to note is that:
- 16.8% of schools in the Western Cape achieved a 100% pass rate, while more than 40% of schools achieved a pass rate of 90% or above.
- 18 schools in the province achieved a 95% bachelor's pass rate.
I would also like to specially mention schools that are plagued by gangsterism, violence and poor socio-economic circumstances, and yet have improved their results significantly.
Three schools that I must make special mention of are Lavender High School, Aloe High School and Fisantekraal High School.
Despite severe gang violence last year the Lavender Hill High School has gone from a 68.8% pass rate in 2016 to an 88.6% in 2017 - this is an exceptional improvement and an increase of a 19.8%.
Aloe High School in Mitchells Plain has gone from a 51.4% pass rate in 2015 to 66.7% in 2016 and 87.2 in 2017 - this is an outstanding achievement and an increase of 20.5% from 2016 to 2017.
Fisantekraal High School has gone from 64.4% in 2016 to 79.5% in 2017, an increase of 15.1%. This is a remarkable achievement.
As I said, these areas have all been plagued by gangsterism and violence over the past year, and learners from these schools have to learn under the most difficult circumstances.
Without in any way minimising the unbelievable difficulty that people in these areas have to endure, it does show that your situation does not have to determine your destination.
I must commend the principals and teachers who courageously face these challenges every day and strive to create a stable teaching and learning environment for our learners when there is violence and fear just outside the school gate, and unfortunately sometimes inside it.
Another school I must mention is Claremont High School. Claremont was born out of a partnership with Westerford High School. The aim was to try and replicate the success of Westerford, focussing specifically on Maths and Science for disadvantaged learners.
It has been a real collaborative effort, with teachers even being shared between the two schools. This year have attained a position in one of our top spots with 100% pass rate and an 87.8% bachelor's pass rate. Very well done to them.
And now onto the most important people here today, our learners.
WOW girls and guys, you have done us proud once again. I am SO proud of you, your schools are proud of you and this government is proud of you.
Results like the ones represented here today do not happen by accident. It takes dedication and commitment throughout your entire school career, and a special focus in your matric year. Well done - your hard work has paid off.
Of course some brains don't hurt either!
But what amazes me every year is the vast number of people who achieve absolutely excellent results, separated by points and sometimes even percentages of points, who do not get recognised at this function. And to them I also wish to say a huge well done. We can't all be in the top spots. But if you have worked consistently and done your best, you are as much of a hero as our learners here today.
I do, of course, want to acknowledge our top achievers who were recognised at the national awards last week
- Janke Van Dyk from Bellville High School was the top achiever in the country,
- Matthys Carstens from Durbanville High School was placed second in the country,
- And, Erin Solomons from Rondebosch Boys High School achieved 3rd place in Physical Science.
Now that you have been successful in your school career, I am sure that many of you have big plans for the future.
I wish you all the very best as you embark on a new and very exciting chapter of your life.
So as you do so, I would like to leave you with some thoughts. Renowned international leadership author and speaker, Dr John Maxwell, in an online article, asks the question whether you know the difference between success and significance.
He says: "I know a lot of people who believe they are successful because they have everything they want. They have added value to themselves. But I believe significance comes when you add value to others-and you can't have true success without significance."
He goes on to say that he worked on a definition of success for 6 months, and came up with the following:
"knowing your purpose in life, growing to your maximum potential sowing seeds that benefit others."
He then identifies 5 differences between success and significance:
What I wish for the class of 2017 is that you will use your success to pursue significance. That you will unselfishly influence those around you wherever you are, that you will use your time wisely to add value, and that you will find your joy in the success of others.
- The first relates to motives. He says that with success, my motives may be selfish; with significance, my motives cannot be selfish. Significance and selfishness are incompatible.
- The second is about influence. With success, my influence is limited; with significance, my influence is unlimited.
- Third is time. "Success can last a lifetime; significance can last several lifetimes. People who desire significance value time. They evaluate what they do with their time, and they invest their time wisely. M. Scott Peck said, "Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.""
- The fourth factor is focus. Maxwell says: "Success asks, "How can I add value to myself?" Significance asks, "How can I add value to others?"
- And fifthly is reward. "If I pursue success, my joy is the result of my success; if I pursue significance, my joy is the result of others' success."
As I end off, we all know that success never comes before work, except in the dictionary. No outstanding results come without hard work, and I would like to thank all the teachers, principals, district officials and head office officials of the WCED for their hard work and commitment to education in the Western Cape.
I don't think many people realise the unbelievable logistical arrangements that have to be planned and executed in administering examinations like this. Everything has to be planned in the minutest detail, to ensure that papers arrive at their destinations on time and without any leaks. As a parent of matriculants my mind was focussed in a different way on this aspect this last year. Then of course the papers have to be delivered safely to the marking venues, marked, and the standardisation process has to take place. While many of us were having a break, our teams worked tirelessly over the Christmas and New Year period to ensure that we delivered a credible result.
So I would like to specifically thank my HOD Brian Schreuder, Dr Peter Beets, Ms Tina Singh, Mr Andre Claausen, Mr Blackie Swart and their teams for yet another year of excellently run NSC examinations. Please stand - you guys deserve a hand.
Thanks must also go to the educator unions, governing body associations, universities and various education organisations for the role that they have played in supporting the efforts of the WCED in 2017.
Thank you also to all those who have helped organise today's event.
And lastly but by no means least, I would like to specially mention, with gratitude and appreciation, a number of sponsors who have generously donated the prizes for today. Appletiser, Mustek, Lenovo, the MTN foundation, Pinnacle Africa and Pearson South Africa - thank you for your contribution today.