‘Model C’ schools need to be supported

| April 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Marius Roodt

The odds of a pupil, regardless of race, passing Matric increase significantly when he attends a former Model C school, compared to those who attend other types of schools.

Former Model C schools are those schools that were reserved for white pupils under apartheid. The term is not officially used by the Department of Basic Education, but is widely used to refer to former whites-only schools.

Considering the Matric pass rate

In 2009 (the latest year for which the South African Institute of Race Relations has figures), the national Matric pass rate in former Model C schools was 94%, compared to an overall pass rate of 60%. The pass rate for each race group was also higher than the overall pass rate. This was true of Africans in particular.

In 2009, the Matric pass rate for Africans in former Model C schools was 88%. The overall pass rate for African pupils in that year was 55%. For coloured pupils in Model C schools, the pass rate was 88%, compared to an overall pass rate of 76% and, for Indian and Asian pupils attending former Model C schools, the pass rate was 98%, compared to an overall pass rate of 92%. The pass rate for white pupils in former Model C schools was 99% – which was also the pass rate for white pupils overall.

This is not surprising. Of the 42 000 white pupils who wrote Matric in 2009, some 88% did so at Model C schools. The pass rates in former House of Representatives (HoR) schools (which had been reserved for coloured pupils during apartheid) and former House of Delegates (HoD) schools (which had been reserved for Indian pupils before 1994) were also higher than the overall pass rate – in some cases, significantly so. The pass rate for Africans in HoR schools was 64%, for coloured pupils 70%, for Indians and Asians 83%, and for whites 99%. The pass rate for Africans in HoD schools was 77%, for coloured pupils 81%, for Indians and Asians 91%, and for whites 100%.

However, only 55 whites wrote Matric in 2009 at former HoD schools. The figures for pupils at ‘other’ schools were also poor. These would be schools that were run by the former homeland administrations, the Department of Education and Training (which administered non-homeland African education during apartheid), private schools that opt to write the government school-leaving examination, or schools that have been founded since the end of apartheid. The pass rate for Africans attending these ‘other’ schools was 52%, for coloured pupils 72%, for Indian and Asian pupils 87%, and for white pupils 96%. However, the vast majority of pupils who passed Matric attended one of these schools.

Ex-Model C schools enjoy superior resources
Of the 339 144 pupils who passed Matric in 2009, some 231 382 (or 68%) had written Matric in one of these ‘other’ schools. It is therefore likely that there are vastly differing standards in these schools. Some will have 100% pass rates, while others will have pass rates of 0%. These figures are not surprising. Due to the legacy of the past, former Model C schools – and, to a lesser extent, former HoR and HoD schools – still benefit from far superior facilities and human and financial resources than
schools that were reserved for African pupils during apartheid.

Most former Model C schools are high-functioning
Along with superior facilities, most former Model C schools also probably perform well due to greater parental involvement, through proactive governing bodies and parent teacher associations. In addition, they are able to charge parents higher fees, as they normally serve affluent areas. Higher fees allow schools to employ extra teachers (who are appointed by the governing body, rather than the Department of Basic Education), resulting in smaller classes.

The power of teachers’ unions – especially the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union – also is weaker in Model C schools. This leads to fewer disruptions, especially during strikes. During the public service strike last year, which included teachers, former Model C schools generally managed to function without interruption, while many other schools had lessons disrupted, or simply closed over the duration of the labour action.

Former Model C schools need to be supported and emulated
The above figures clearly show that if pupils, regardless of race, attend schools that have good facilities and are well-run, good results will be achieved. The Department of Basic Education needs to examine what is being done right in good ex-Model C and other well-functioning schools and emulate this in schools that are performing poorly.

Results in former Model C schools are excellent, but the pupils attending these schools account for a small number of total pupils. Only 21% of pupils who passed Matric in 2009 came from former Model C schools, while 68% of those passing came from ‘other’ schools. The proportion of pupils writing Matric at these ‘other’ schools is even higher. In 2009, of the 562 750 pupils that wrote Matric, some 437 730 (or 78%) had written at these ‘other’ schools. By contrast, only 74 429 (or 13%) had written Matric at former Model C schools.

Former Model C schools need to be supported. They are oases of excellence in the desert of mediocrity that is our public education system, and provide pupils with quality educations. However, centres of excellence also exist among schools that are not former Model C, and these need to be identified and supported. The factors
that make these schools – which do not have the financial and human resources of many formerly white schools – schools of quality, need to be identified and emulated.

At the same time, resources must not be diverted from former Model C schools. The weak cannot be strengthened by weakening the strong. However, the majority
of South African pupils do not have the privilege of attending former Model C schools. They will attend poorly resourced schools that struggle to give children good
educations. The majority of South African university students and workers will come from these schools, which will make the future success of these institutions all the

more important. If the South African schooling system continues, for the most part, to fail to produce people who are able to thrive in tertiary education and the world of work, this country will not succeed. The success of our schooling system is imperative if South Africa wants to become a prosperous developed nation.

Marius Roodt is a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). This research and policy brief from the SAIRR was f irst published in The Star newspaper in late January 2011. It appears here with the author’s kind permission.

Category: Autumn 2011

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