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Pandor: Pretoria High School for Girls Valedictory Function (05/10/2006)

4th October 2006


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Date: 05/10/2006
Source: Department of Education
Title: Pandor: Pretoria High School for Girls Valedictory Function

Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the valedictory service at Pretoria High School for Girls, Pretoria,

"Facing the future with confidence and pride"

The Principal, Ms McNair
Members of the Governing Board
Parents and teachers
Distinguished guests
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 occasion.

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 valedictory function.

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 affairs.

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 passed.

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 grade distinction.

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 old curriculum?

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 society.

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 exams.

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 businesswomen.

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 research.

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 succeed.

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 activities.

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 available opportunities.

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.

I thank you!

Issued by: Department of Education
5 October 2006


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