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Matric - the long and the short of it : By Leendert van Oostrum

Under the previous dispensation, the Matric exam was controlled by a statutory body controlled by the universities, with inputs from industry and schools.


One of the first things that happened under the new constitution was that this was placed under the control of the Minister of Education through a body now called Umalusi. This body controls the standard of all "matric", or National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.

It also sees it as its job to control not only the standard, but also the CONTENT of those examinations and to ensure that they comply with the content of the national curriculum. However, it it unconstitutional for government to control the content, or the educational and assessment methods used in private education.

For this reason, the Pestalozzi Trust has been involved in a court case against the Minister of Education to prevent her from prescribing the content of private matric examination boards (there are two - IEB and ERCO). The case has been running for four years and has not seen a day in court, because the Minister is fighting tooth and nail to keep it out of court. We have at last obtained court dates and the first part of the case is scheduled to be heard in March.

And that is only the preliminary case that we shall have to win before we can launch a case to address the real issue!

The "new matric":

In the mean time, however, the Minister also changed the regulations that determine who may enter for the matric examination and who not. NOTE: Umaluzi does NOT control university admissions. That is the job of HESA ("Higher Education South Africa", a statutory body comprised of the universities, government and some other role players) and specifically the "matriculation board", one of its organs.

Until 2008, anybody could come in off the street and write matric. If you passed you got the certificate. If you studied on your own (and many did) you could get matric for about R1000 books included.

The minister then proposed regulations that would, as from 2008, allow ONLY candidates who had been FULL TIME students at registered schools for Grade 10, 11 and 12 to write the matric examination.

The Pestalozzi Trust was the ONLY body that launched a large scale campaign to oppose this regulation. The campaign was launched through this mailing list, but we also received good support from Brainline, Delta, Impak, Intec and one or two other institutions that wrote letters and/or passed information to their clients, asking them to write letters.

The Minister relented - not because she wanted to, but because she was informed that the Trust had the teeth and the will to take her to court. We threatened (subtly, of course :-) to get an urgent interdict stopping the matric exams if part time and independent candidates were prevented from writing.

"Adult matric" and transitional arrangements:

The Minister then dreamt up a proposed "adult matric" and issued "transitional" regulations. According to these, "part time candidates" who are registered with an accredited institution for grades 10 through 12 can write the NSC examination until the proposed "adult matric" becomes available.

The "adult matric" is envisioned as a different type of "once-off" examination that people who are "adults" (presumably older than eighteen) will be allowed to write. It is not clear whether that will provide university admission, but that is a moot point anyway, because:

The "adult matric" was intended to become available in 2009. The target date was first shifted right to 2010 and then to 2012. I see very little indication that it will be ready in 2012, if ever.

So for the foreseeable future, and ONLY as a result of the initiatives of the Pestalozzi Trust and its ability to mobilise the courts to oppose unlawful actions by the Minister, homeschoolers will be able to obtain the NSC through accredited institutions. If we had failed, homeschoolers would now have only the Cambridge option, or would have had to send their children to schools from Grade 10 onwards. And, of course, the curriculum suppliers would have had to offer Cambridge or they would not have had any students in Grades 10 to 12!

These are currently Brainline, Delta Education, Hatfield Christian School, Impak, Intec, Moria Tuisskoolmateriaal, Nucleus, Telweb, and Volkskool Orania, to my knowledge - only the first three and Intec being available in English. Costs are about R30 000 for the three years, which is more than most BA degrees at UNISA (which gets a 53% subsidy from government).

That is thirty times as expensive as it was only a few years ago. (Of course, most homeschoolers did NOT do matric on their own before, and would have used these facilities anyway to help them prepare for the exam, so this does not affect most homeschoolers too adversely).


What follows below is a rough summary of a very thick document, and there are literally hundreds of ifs and buts. The gist of it is, however that -

The Minister issued regulations (drafted by HESA) that now require, as minimum university entrance requirements, the NSC with university exemption, OR EQUIVALENT. What are the "equivalents"?

a. Senate dispensation.

Universities can admit whoever they want, with or without matric, provided the candidate has complied with a process prescribed by the Senate of the university.

In practice, the big state universities have prescribed this process in such a way that it amounts to little more than a required bridging course for students who HAVE an NSC, but not university exemption.

Most private universities seem to be following this example. However, they are not required to do so. Some of them have much different admission requirements. Da Vinci University, for example (which offers only sertificates, diplomas, and degrees up to doctoral degrees in management of technology - quite expensive) admits students based on their work experience. No matric needed.

There are also other such private universities and colleges that will use their brains in choosing their students. However, there is pressure on these universities to also fall in with the highly restrictive systems run by the state universities.

b.    Tertiary qualifications:

If you manage to get into a college or university without matric and pass your qualification (or at least the first year - this differs) the matriculation board MUST give you university exemption f you apply for it. You can then enter any university that will have you.

c.    Foreign qualifications:

There are two foreign qualifications that are accepted as "equivalent" to the NSC without qualification - the Cambridge certificate with a prescribed profile of subjects and levels, and the International Baccalaureate. The International Baccalaureate can only be obtained my means of full time attendance at a school that offers it, so this is no option for homeschoolers.

There are another 184 different foreign qualifications that are accepted as "equivalent" to the NSC. They differ widely - for example, if you come from Argentine, you need to have passed second year BA to qualify for the equivalent of the NSC. The SAT + school leaving certificate is one of these.

HOWEVER: In the latest regulations, you can use these other foreign qualifications ONLY if you obtained them while physically living in the country where they are offered!

This new thing means that the old SAT plus school leaving certificate rule no longer applies, unless you come from Amerca. This is almost certainly unconstitutional discrimination against South Africans, and we expect that the Trust will have to challenge this in court in the not too distant future.


I doubt that government will be able to get rid of the Cambridge option entirely – even Red China was unable to do so.

The problem is that the economic and political elite will always demand elite education for their children and will get it outside the country if they have to. (Case in point: remember how Bishop Tutu sent his children to private schools in Swaziland while loudly calling for extended school boycotts in South Africa under the programme of “liberation before education”?)

We can expect, whatever happens, therefore, that we shall always have elite private schools offering the Cambridge or the International Baccalaureate, but it will be made expensive and exclusive and those options will not be open to the common people and least of all to homeschoolers except the very rich among us.


It is the stated advice of the Yeld committee that all matric options for South African be removed, except the NSC, in order to impose ideological uniformity.

As one can see, government has progressed very far in implementing this recommendation.

However, almost all of these restrictions are contrary to the constitution and or international law.

If we fail to oppose them, it is our own fault that we have not protected our legitimate freedoms.

Kind regards, Leendert

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Saturday, 13 July 2024

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