21 January 2022
It has been almost two years since the start of the pandemic that changed the way we live and work. For students in particular, the pandemic has meant adjusting to new ways of consuming information, interacting with teachers and fellow students, and writing exams.
“The rise in the Matric pass rate to 76.4% from 76.2% in 2020 is an encouraging sign that students are becoming accustomed to these new ways of learning,” says Jennifer Barkhuizen, Head of Communications at Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE). “The youth of South Africa has shown that they are adaptable and resilient, and this bodes well for Matrics who will be embarking on further studies or entering the workplace in 2022.”
Signs of Improvement
The 2021 school year started later than previous years, and this meant that more students could physically attend school than was the case in 2020, when hard lockdowns were in place. They also had increased access to resources by being physically present at school. Even though COVID-19 was still very much a reality during the past academic year, students were also learning to adjust to a hybrid method of learning and writing tests or exams, and important lessons were learned by schools and teachers during 2020 that were effectively applied in 2021.
“We hope to see even more improvement in academic performance going forward,” says Barkhuizen. “We know that both students and teachers alike have had to be agile in the way they approach learning and teaching. Students in particular will need this skill as they navigate the world after school, whether deciding to pursue tertiary education or directly entering the workforce.”
While a measure of uncertainty remains, there are positive signs that bode well for the future. Over a quarter of South Africa’s population is now fully vaccinated, and ramped up efforts on the part of both government and business to increase this number should soon start to bear fruit. Certain industry sectors are also starting to recover economically, and the unemployment rate will hopefully decrease in 2022 as more sectors follow suit. The formal non-agricultural sector, for example, saw an increase of 52 000 jobs in the third quarter of 2021 according to Statistics South Africa, which is encouraging.
The CareerJunction Index, released in October 2021, showed that hiring activity increased slightly towards the end of the year, and that certain jobs such as software development, finance management and sales consulting, remain in high demand. According to the index, information technology remains the sector with the highest demand for jobs, followed by finance and business management.
Every year, Matriculants are faced with the decision of whether to study further, or to enter the workforce directly. “If school leavers are planning to study further, we would caution them to ensure that the institution they choose to study through, as well as the courses they offer, are accredited,” says Barkhuizen. “Those choosing to enter the workforce should be reminded that honesty is key when representing their achievements, and that embellishing their CVs can have negative effects on their employability. The difficult economic times we find ourselves in, coupled with the high unemployment rate, make it tempting to exaggerate what one has achieved, but it is not worth it in the long run.”
Barkhuizen notes that MIE’s annual Background Screening Index has shown year-on-year that qualifications are the most commonly misrepresented aspects on CVs. “Aside from encouraging students to be honest about their achievements, companies can also reduce the operational and reputational risk of hiring incorrectly qualified candidates by ensuring that they perform adequate background screening as part of their hiring process,” she adds.
In closing, Barkhuizen is positive about the future for the Matrics of 2021: “Although unemployment rates are high, and the economy will take some time to recover from the disruptions faced over the past two years, there is optimism in that employment and economic trends are starting to show improvement. There is also firm evidence of our resilience as a country, and I have hope for the South African youth that the lessons they have learned in dealing with the many hardships they have been faced with, will stand them in good stead on the years to come.”