Maths, science are 'too hard'
The steady decline over the past five years in the number of matric pupils studying science has education experts worried.
The number of pupils studying science fell from 229934 in 2008 to 182083 this year.
Though there has been a slight increase in the number of matrics doing maths - from 229371 last year to 230194 this year, this is well below the 2008 figure of 317270.
Enrolment in maths literacy courses has increased from 283000 in 2008 to 297074.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said in Pretoria yesterday that it would seem that many pupils have switched from maths to maths literacy to increase their chances of passing the final exams.
"It is an area of great concern to us.
"Despite the fact that we want to encourage pupils to enrol for mathematics, we have more pupils going for maths literacy," she said, adding that maths had a higher failure rate than other subjects.
Motshekga said she had asked that a maths and science summit be convened to find ways in which pupils' interest in these subjects could be increased.
Education analyst Professor Graeme Bloch said it was disturbing that, even with high-profile science projects such as the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope in the Karoo making national headlines, children did not want to be scientists.
"We have a problem and we need a complete rethink," he said.
"It might be teaching issues, but they would not be easy to solve.
"We need to start asking deep questions and we need community engagement on this matter," Bloch said.
This year has been particularly challenging for education. Schools have been closed for months in Northern Cape because of service delivery protests, and the Limpopo textbook fiasco has crippled education in that province.
"It has been a very dramatic year ... but we are confident," said Motshekga.
"With the support and mitigating efforts we put in place, we should be able to get children through matric safely without having to sacrifice my head," she said.
She said all the provinces were ready for the exams and that many schools have installed CCTV camera systems, hi-tech access control and alarm systems to avoid security breaches.
Many past matric results have been compromised by the leaking of examination papers.
A total of 527335 full-time and 120352 part-time pupils will sit for the National Senior Certificate final examinations, which begin on Monday.