So the internet is a pretty amazing place. Social networks in particular allow minds that would under normal circumstances never meet to have a discourse on subjects that they are mutually interested in. Sometimes, they are the domain of drooling imbeciles calling into question your mother's virtue because you like a gaming console they don't own, i.e. Youtube fanboy debates. Sometimes, they encourage you to take your thinking in another direction which, whilst not entirely comfortable is always a good thing. This is one of those times...
After I posted my take on how we should gauge successful matriculants I received the usual, "Hey bro, interesting article" comments, and a fair amount of Facebook likes... In the middle of the night though, someone posted a series of thoughtful rebuttals. Unfortunately, twitter's 140 character limit, and (I suspect) our timezone differences make it tricky to have a cogent conversation. Instead, I'd like to reply to his tweets here.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Vukosi for dot-replying his tweets so that his followers would also get an opportunity to join in.
.@gee_forr Interesting post, but misleading. What are historical dropout rates? 30% pass rate is now a strawman, not based on fact.— Vukosi Marivate (@vukosi) January 16, 2014
The point I was attempting to make is that dropout rates are part of the problem our education system is facing. I don't know how low or high they are, but even a 5% dropout rate is unacceptable, in my opinion.
Furthermore, 30% is the minimum percentage needed to pass a subject - on what planet is passing with 30% useful to anyone, student or prospective employer?
.@gee_forr the final metric you come up with is even worse as it does not do what you think it does. It hides repeaters, 9th grade leavers— Vukosi Marivate (@vukosi) January 16, 2014
OK, I'll concede that repeaters need to be factored in in someway, as whilst they will negatively impact their initial cohort, as designed, they will positively impact (should they eventually pass matric with exemption) the incorrect cohort. Hmmm... back to the drawing board on that one. Nice catch, dude.
The 9th grade leavers, however, are considered dropouts, no? In that case, my initial model should still hold true.
.@gee_forr further we can't expect everyone to get to HigherEd. DBE has a lot of things to improve, and the dropout rate is worrying— Vukosi Marivate (@vukosi) January 16, 2014
I'm going to assume that by HigherEd, Vukosi means "go to University". I tend to agree with him 100% here, but it appears he is missing the point. The point around using exemption as the acceptable bar is not that it means they go to university, but that they have passed at a level that a 3rd party, the universities, deem acceptable. This would have the welcome effect of ensuring that the DBE cannot drop the quality of the education in order to have more learners achieve A's with distinctions.
.@gee_forr but metrics must first be based on the mission of DBE as well as curricula. How does the metric take that into account?— Vukosi Marivate (@vukosi) January 16, 2014
If it wasn't clearly implied in my original post, I don't trust that the DBE's (or at least it's leadership) mission wants the best for our children. Pure past record corroborates my views here (the textbook scandal, the poorly handled teacher's strike of '10, the general sorry state and overcrowdedness of schools - particularly in rural areas).
Regarding basing the metric on curricula, my model already takes this into account, but indirectly. As stated above, by using the lever of exemption, the DBE would be forced into maintaining a consistently high level of education throughout a learner's school career, but particularly in Matric.
It's not good enough to start school, we have to ensure that they finish too.
It's not good enough to pass, we have to ensure that our learners pass well.
It's not good enough to brag about a misleading percentage as a measure of success, we have to ensure that it's a real indicator of the state of our education system.