SmartStart Congratulates the Matric class of 2023

SmartStart congratulates the Matric class of 2023 on their 84% pass rate. The hard work put in by learners, teachers, principals, parents, provincial education departments and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has paid off!

While the attainment of the National Senior Certificate is a critical milestone in a child’s life, South Africa’s over-focus on the Matric results takes away from crucial conversations on the years that lead up to this point. A child’s education and learning are a continuum, and we, as a country must pay close attention to all the stages of this continuum.

Last night, Minister Angie Motshekga highlighted that, “when the Class of 2023, enrolled for Grade 1 in 2012, they were one point two (1.2) million…in October 2023, seven hundred and fifteen thousand, seven hundred and nineteen (715 719) candidates enrolled for the 2023 NSC exams.”  These figures highlight that not all children are making it through the education system. The learning gaps that accumulate in the early years of schooling, often lead to learners dropping out.

The 2021 Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS), released in April last year, showed that only 19% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa can read for meaning.

Access to early learning programmes is one way we can begin setting the foundation for young children. In 2022, the Early Childhood Development (ECD) function, shifted from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the DBE. The shift led to a renewed focus on the two challenges facing the sector, and that is access and quality.According to the 2022 national Census, about 2,2 million children between the ages of 0 – 4 years old, are not attending an early learning programme.

We need to scale up access significantly and quickly to ensure that children have the head start they need. The first five years of a child’s life are vital for shaping essential social, cognitive, emotional, and language skills. These serve as the building blocks for learning, academic achievement, and overall success in life.