Dear St Cyprian's School Community

Another year upon us and I wish you, your families and your daughters the very best for what the year brings.  New years start with promise and hope and it’s my hope that our girls will be inspired to use the opportunities that come their way.  The topic for my first Principal’s Perspective for the year reflects on a subject that was top-of-mind for many families a few short weeks ago.  Matric results, the journey beyond matric and the triumphs and disappointments experienced by matriculants and parents, were hot topics over the holidays.  Although School-in-the-Woods and Preparatory School parents may think that they are far from the matric year, I urge you to read my perspective to understand the realities of the South African national educational challenges that currently dominate.

2018’s national pass rate of 78% saw a 12% increase in bachelor’s passes that was celebrated by the Department of Education.  A recent Carte Blanche insert two weeks ago, focused, inter alia, on these 2018 results and contemplated the way ahead for students who, fresh off the bachelor’s pass celebration train, faced a cold, stark reality of not moving forward into tertiary institutions to realise their big dreams.  The insert brought into sharp focus the reality of the massive challenges higher-learning institutions are encountering in relation to the increased number of bachelor’s passes.
The Carte Blanche insert did not pull punches. While the Department of Education celebrates an increase in bachelor’s passes through all avenues open to them, universities simply cannot keep us with the need to accommodate the increase.  In April 2018, the Department of Education dropped the list of specialist subjects required for university acceptance as well as changing the rules for what constitutes a university pass.  These changes have caused a significant headache for tertiary institutions.  South African universities’ enrolment have been increasing by only 3-5% each year.  The result is a growing body of students whose frustrations are escalating as their bachelor’s passes/pink tickets/panacea are not granting them the passage to higher learning they so desperately hope for.  The diagrams below reflect those that appeared on Carte Blanche and show the sheer volume of applications versus the actual capacity of several of our universities.

It’s tough out there.  Some of our girls and parents may feel that this is a particularly impossible time to apply to university.  A combination of increasing bachelor’s passes, tertiary institutions’ intentional redress to rectify lack of inclusion, the reality of more students getting more As than ever, higher entry criteria in some faculties and the squeeze on the number of places, has caused real concern. 

My purpose in laying out this news is the hope that together, we can better prepare our girls for the road ahead.  We cannot influence the criteria and decision-making processes of our higher-learning institutions, but we can influence and change our approaches to their processes.  We need to discuss the reality of fewer places, more competition, the race for marks and the value of keeping our heads when there are those around us, losing theirs. We need to prepare our girls for the reality of not getting into their chosen courses first time around or their first-choice institution and encourage them to widen their horizons with alternative choices that pair with their true desires and interrogate how much they want to get to their dream destination. 

There are options but they may require detours and we must educate our girls that detours are worthwhile experiences along the journey of landing up where they want to be.  St Cyprian’s educational paradigm prepares our girls for this – academically in the rigorousness of the IEB that teaches them to apply their skills in unknown contexts as university requires, and, their additional skills through perseverance, persistence, problem-solving and critical engagement.  Together, the rigour and the self-agency work together to bring about ‘educatedness’, a measure of achievement at the matric level of which St Cyprian’s School is proud and sets us apart as a leading provider of unlocking thinking in our students and providing them with strategies to find solutions. 

Please read Anne Oberholzer’s What is the true measure of ‘educatedness’? Anne is CEO of the IEB and presents a compelling argument as to why, how and what we should be preparing our students for before sending them out into the world with a solid start to achieving their full potential.

Warm regards
Sue Redelinghuys
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