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Source: Department of Education
Title: Pandor: Pretoria High School for Girls Valedictory
Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the
valedictory service at Pretoria High School for Girls,
"Facing the future with confidence and pride"
The Principal, Ms McNair
Members of the Governing Board
Parents and teachers
Grade 12 learners
Thank you for inviting me to your school's valedictory function. It
is indeed an honour for me to address you on this special
It is also a very special day in the education calendar. Today, the
5th of October is World Teachers' Day. It is a day when we
recognise and pay tribute to the important role that teachers play
in providing quality education.
I would like you to join me in applauding the many dedicated
teachers - who are in this hall and elsewhere in our country - for
their enormous contribution to schooling and the development of
each and every child. It is through their efforts that we are able
to celebrate the achievements of young men and women across South
Africa at this time of the year and at events such as this
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Pretoria
High School for Girls for your outstanding achievement during the
2005 Senior Certificate Examinations.
I extend my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the staff and
parents for supporting girls at this school during their years of
schooling, and for ensuring that the school maintains these high
levels of academic achievement.
Pretoria High is a beacon school in the public education system.
Your academic record over a number of years has been excellent.
Other schools look to your school in envy and in admiration. Other
schools look to your school to learn how to excel.
Recently schools have come under increasing scrutiny because
business and universities tell us that too many learners leave
school without an adequate proficiency in the basic functional
skills of reading, writing, and numeracy. The standard of the
matric exam has been blamed in some quarters for this state of
In 2003 the National Quality Assurance Body responsible for the
Senior Certificate, Umalusi, appointed a research committee to
investigate the claim that the standard of the Senior Certificate
had declined in the previous ten years. The research team looked at
the statistics, the statistical adjustments, and the quality of the
examination papers in five subjects over the ten years.
The main findings of the research were that:
* There had been an increase in the number of learners taking
standard grade subjects as opposed to higher grade.
* The cognitive demand of certain key subjects had declined,
especially standard grade papers. In other words, schools and
learners were choosing the easy options and examiners were
exacerbating the problem.
Yet labour market studies and household surveys indicate
unequivocally that opportunities for employment and further
learning increase substantially with a senior certificate -
compared to a grade 11 - and increase significantly again with a
matric exemption, especially if mathematics is one of the subjects
So we have acted decisively to improve the quality of the matric
exam. The cognitive demand of examinations has, by all accounts,
increased in the last two years. We have also introduced a new
matric curriculum which does away with the standard and higher
There has been a mixed reaction to the new curriculum. Frequent
questions are: why a new curriculum; why do we not go on using the
There was an urgent need to review the curriculum, which was out of
date to mention only the least of its failings. Throughout the
world countries review their school curricula from time to time. It
is important that we recognise this. The revision of the South
African curriculum is not primarily about introducing
outcomes-based education or OBE. Rather we needed an approach,
content and methodology that educates our learners differently, if
they are to survive and thrive in the 21st Century workplace and
But the new curriculum is only a blueprint or what curriculum
theorists call 'the intended curriculum.' It remains the intended
curriculum until it is implemented by schools. And the quality of
the education offered can and will only be determined by schools
themselves. Schools can, with the support of parents and learners,
do much to influence the quality of education offered.
Enough about policy matters. I want to say a little about the
future all grade 12 learners face after passing the matric
Valedictory functions are occasions to say farewell formally to
friends and teachers. It is one of the highlights of the school
year. It is a time to recall fond memories and to share the things
you have learned during your time at school.
It is, however, also a time to look forward in anticipation. It is
natural that looking forward in anticipation will bring anxiety.
You will be leaving a secure school and home environment and moving
into the unknown.
If I had addressed you 20 years ago, my message to you would have
been very solemn. Why? Because until recently only a few countries
had laws that ensured women to choose to train for a job, to get a
job, and to get equal pay. Opportunities for women in the world of
work and society were limited.
As you will know, on 9 August 2006 our country celebrated the 50th
anniversary of the women's anti-pass march of 1956. The march by
the courageous and bold women of our country serves as a reminder
of the harsh realities of social exclusion experienced by women in
the past. As a result of the women's march of 1956 and other
developments in the struggle for equality, women today are in a
better position than their forebears to participate in the affairs
of our country.
My challenge to you, school-leavers, is to ensure that as young
women you cherish the heritage that was left to you by women in the
struggle for freedom in our country. We need to preserve the values
of community, selflessness, and concern for the good of society to
ensure that we build a better South Africa for all.
Women now have an opportunity to take their place in society in
different roles - as politicians, scientists and
I need hardly tell you that success of girls in matric has
significantly improved in the last decade, but still too few young
women go on to make careers where a keen understanding of
mathematics and science is required.
Although there are more women students overall in higher education
institutions, they are in a minority at postgraduate and
research-degree level. These statistics are even more pronounced
when one looks at the participation of women in science,
engineering, and technology research.
A recent report, 'Women's Participation in Science, Engineering and
Technology' (National Advisory Council on Innovation, 2004),
reveals that only one in three of all actively publishing
scientists is a woman. It is worth noting that many other countries
have similar inequalities between men and women in scientific
Creative scientific and technical women are indispensable for
economic growth. It is therefore imperative that the number of
women in science and technology should increase. And institutions
must provide the necessary supportive environment to make them
It is my hope that many of you will consider careers in those
fields of study that were previously least accessible to women. Our
country requires engineers, in different categories, given the
major infrastructure development that will take place in the
country. We need to have young women actively participate in these
The present era presents you with a multitude of opportunities.
Computers and information technology have affected almost every
industry, bringing people and economies much closer to each other.
It is therefore important that young women go out to seek these
In closing, remember that the road to success is not always smooth
or easy. There will be disappointments in life. It is here that you
must cultivate a very important attribute: perseverance. Do not get
distracted from the goals that you have set yourselves. It is when
you are confronted with challenges that women of strength, rather
than strong women, will emerge.