Higher Education South Africa (Hesa) chairperson Dr Theuns Eloff yesterday warned that there was a serious breakdown between school-level outcomes and higher education entry-level proficiencies. “Schools should be able to better prepare learners for higher education.”
In a presentation to the portfolio committee on higher education, Eloff this week painted a bleak picture on school leavers’ lack of academic competency. His presentation is confirmed by the results of the final pilot phase of the National Benchmark Tests Project (NTBP). Among other things, the NTBP assesses entry-level academic and quantitative literacy and mathematics proficiency of university students. About 13 000 students at seven universities, including Rhodes, wrote the assessments earlier this year. It reportedly found that only seven percent of those tested were mathematically “proficient”, meaning they would not need extra help to pass their first year. About 73 percent had intermediate mathematical skills, and would need to take part in extended or augmented programmes to pass the subject. Twenty percent had “basic skills” and would need long-term support.
Out of those who wrote the academic literacy tests only 47 percent were proficient, meaning more than half would require “extensive support in language development”. The test assessed ability in English, the medium of instruction.
In an interview with the Daily Dispatch, Eloff yesterday said the results were “cause for concern” about curriculum implementation at school level and the quality of the NSC.
“We don’t want to rush to judgment but it is a serious cause for concern right now. Matric leavers with exemption should have at least basic academic literacy and be better able read, write and do calculations.”