Signs of hope in schools
Sunday Times Editorial: THE Department of Education is to be congratulated for the sensible and effective interventions that have led to the encouraging improvement in the matric pass rate - and the number of distinctions - for the class of 2011.
Sweeping policy changes and bold statements have made way for practical interventions. These have brought tangible improvements in teaching and learning in South African classrooms, and a credible improvement in the matric pass rate.
This is not to say that the education crisis is over. Despite improvements in pass rates for township schools, there are far too few township pupils among the top achievers in the country.
Unless quality education is replicated in townships and rural areas, the racial fault lines of South Africa's inequalities will continue to grow.
Another area of concern is the low pass rate for mathematics and physical science, subjects essential to the development of skills in numerous professions vital to the development and prosperity of the country.
A third area of concern is the huge number of pupils who drop out of school before they write matric, suggesting that schools seek to improve their results by weeding out weak pupils before they reach their final year. This indicates a widespread abandonment of pupils in need of academic help.
However, we are heartened by the commitment from the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and her department to continue to analyse data, to identify problems and to replicate successes.
We are also heartened by her confidence that the crisis has been halted and is poised to be reversed.
The department's openness and honesty about the problems it faces is to be welcomed. So is its willingness to accept help from outside experts without relinquishing responsibility for its policies and their outcomes.
For too long, the crisis in education has been an elephant that no one has been able to tackle. But you eat an elephant one bite at a time. That is exactly what the minister and her department have been doing - with encouraging results.