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OBE generation-the rise of the guinea pigs!

Posted by Paddy On April - 3 - 2009

Universities around the country are using benchmark testing, from theNational Benchmark Tests Project, to evaluate learners against a list of academic pre-requisites that are essential for tertairy education. Rhodes University instituted benchmark tests last year. The test results have not yet been tallied, however the outcome of the 2009 university intake will be compared to the 2008 intake.
The learners results will not be held against them should they not pass the tests successfully. The project will be implemented on a national scale and eventually substitute university entrance exams.
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OBE was first introduced in the 1990’s when the quality of South African education came under great scrutiny. Aggravating the problem even further were issues of inequalities within South African society, with the majority of the population sidelined and discriminated against. As a result, education policies had to be revisited in such a way that they would revise educational provision in such a way that they would promote a more balanced view of South African society.

In later months the ANC ruled out Apartheid education and in doing so introducing OBE in 1997, the government’s attempt of addressing the education crisis in the country. Apart from the curricular being implemented so as to limit content-based learning it also had to respond to international trends in educational development. In March 1997 the Education Minister announced in the British parliament the launch of Curriculum 2005.

Questions still remain unanswered with people enquiring whether or not the change in South African education was for the better or for worse. Or perhaps whether the OBE curricular simply lowers the standard for high achievers, whilst relegating those who have traditionally struggled to mediocrity, instead of realising individual potential.

The depreciating quality of the country’s education cannot solely be attributed to OBE but also one may argue that it is because of our national obsession with the matriculation exam as a bellwether of achievement.

Every year thousands of matriculants, are said to complete the curriculum unprepared for the challenges of higher education let alone the workplace. The ultimum question then becomes, Are the new breed of matricualnts well equipped than their predecessors? A third of the 2008 candidates failed matric last year, despite the fact that the pass rate has been lowered to just 30% (refer to graph). The actual matric pass rate decreased by 2.7% while learners receiving matric exemptions increased by 5.2%. The Department of Education has been called to address this crisis and ensure that it improves dramatically.

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