The winning formula for success rests on learners, teachers and parents, says IEB head

IE Interviews Anne Oberholzer

Thabo Mohlala

Independent Examinations Board (IEB)’s impressive National Senior Certificate is a direct outcome of the hard work of three key players: learners, teachers and parents, said Anne Oberholzer, the board’s chief executive officer.

She spoke to Inside Education on the back of the release of their 2017 results which improved marginally to just under 99% this year. This year’s pass rate is 98.76% compared to 98.67% in 2016. She said they have been consistently producing between 98% and 99% and asked if it is possible to ever get 100% NSC pass rate, Oberholzer said it is conceivable to achieve the feat.

However, she added, it is also near impossible to attain a 100% pass rate for a variety of factors. For instance, a learner may experience a misfortune or get ill prior to writing the examination and this could possibly impact on him or her performance and thus ultimately affect the final results, said Oberholzer.

She said the success of any school rests fairly and squarely at three elements at school level. “The first element of that success is dedicated students [learners], who want to do well… they are prepared to put in hard hours of learning, studying and working in order to do achieve.

The second thing is a committed group of teacher professionals who want to their very best to provide their learners with opportunities to achieve the best they can. So they also put in hours of hard work to make sure the learners have all the information, understand all concepts and have the skill that they need.

And finally, which I think it is often the underestimated factor, is the interest of parents, the motivation of parents and the support of parents. A child always responds to a parent, if the parent is interested, the child will be interested; if the parent is not interested the child will not be interested. If a parent says I haven’t got time to go to a meeting, what does the child think? He or she will also get disinterested in school. So the whole issue of parental support and involvement is critical for success,” said Oberholzer.

She said schools that perform well whether they are in rural or urban area, have gotten the three elements right. Oberholzer said even in situations where a parent is uneducated or doesn’t have the time to help the child with school work, the little time he or she spends with the child goes a long way to motivating the child.

“Look I mean there is always exceptions to the rule where a child performs well because the teachers provide support even if the parent doesn’t. But if we are talking systemically those three are key ingredients for the system to perform better,” said Oberholzer.

She said the country needs to look tertiary education and lifelong learning through new lenses. “In South Africa we have a fixed idea of what success means. Success means we got to school; get good marks and once we got those good marks we go to university and we do a degree; we come out of the degree and find a job and we live happily ever after. And that is why we have this huge demand for university education. The modern world operates differently. If you look at successful people, they are not always academics. You look at the top musicians, the IT professional Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, they dropped out of university. They said that is not where we want to be, we have an interest and talent in computing and we are going for it,” said Oberholzer.

She said the mistake the country made was to always favour the academic path and if you can’t make it at university only then do we look at what else one can do. This, she said, is proposed as a second best option. “We are judging our students by their academic success and not in terms of their talents,” said Oberholzer, adding that some may not even want to go to university except when they go and further their studies.



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