20 January 2023 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Prof Francis Petersen congratulated the matric class of 2022 on their pass rate of 80,1%. He is excited to welcome prospective students to start the next chapter of their lives at Kovsies.

With the release of the National Senior Certificate exam results by the National Department of Basic Education on 19 January 2023, it was confirmed that the Free State maintained its status as the top-performing province in the country.

This year’s average pass rate for the province is 88,5%, an increase of 2,8% from 2021, and more than 8% above the national pass rate.

Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), congratulated the Matric Class of 2022.
“Passing the National Senior Certificate examination is a milestone worthy of celebration and a step towards realising your dreams for the future. The University of the Free State congratulates you on achieving this goal and we are delighted that you have achieved this success.”
“We are recruiting the best students and scholars from diverse backgrounds and are looking forward to welcoming you to start the next chapter of your life and to guiding you to realise your true potential.”

“At the UFS, we have a clear vision of where we want to be within the next few years leading up to the year 2034, when the university will be 130 years old. Vision 130 expresses our intent and commitment to be acknowledged by our peers and society as a top-tier university in South Africa, ranked among the best in the world.”

“Academic excellence, quality, and impact lie at the centre of our vision. So does maximum societal impact. We are demonstrating our impact through our graduates, the knowledge we generate, the research we conduct, and our engagement with society," he says. 

Prof Petersen continues, “We are focused on consistently renewing and reimagining ourselves in order to effectively impact the communities that surround us.”

It is in its engagement with society, striving to make a positive impact, that the UFS has certain initiatives in place that have contributed to the successful pass rate of matric pupils in the province.

Creative Clubs

Creative Clubs is one of these initiatives. The initiator and coordinator of the programme, Dr Joleen Hamilton from the university’s School of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology Education, says Creative Clubs aim to create an environment to cultivate skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, higher-order reasoning, teamwork, and perseverance. 

“Motivation, more specifically internal motivation, is another aspect we address. For this to work, we make the learners believe in their abilities, potential, and themselves. Learners need to have the self-confidence to find the courage to persevere, even if the problem is challenging. Having self-confidence and self-belief is crucial for learners to be successful in their school career and afterwards,” she says. 

The skills taught in Creative Clubs prepare learners for success when they write the National Senior Certificate exam later. “Due to our focus on the development of skills, we are able to equip learners with the tools they need to be successful in any subject or learning situation.”

“Most of the activities done in Creative Club sessions are focusing on changing learners’ attitudes towards themselves in terms of what they believe they can accomplish,” says Dr Hamilton. 

She is of the opinion that Mathematics and Science are both perceived as difficult and only for high achievers. She explains that many of the learners do not have a choice and must take Mathematics and Science as subjects, whether they are interested in the fields or not. “If the learners can get support in not only understanding the content but also in developing and strengthening skills, their attitudes towards these subjects can be changed to believing that it can be managed and mastered. Once their attitudes change, their self-belief increases, and learners are more willing to try challenging problems or topics in these subjects.”

Sci-Ed Science Education Centre

Another drive of the university that provides support to learners and contributes to successful matric results in the long run, is the Sci-Ed Science Education Centre hosted by the UFS Faculty of Education to address the challenge of Mathematics and Science teaching and learning in South Africa.

Dr Cobus van Breda, Manager of Sci-Ed and Programme Director of Science-for-the-Future, believes success in matric is the result of many contributing factors. “Apart from a solid school education, it is also about consistent hard work over a long period of time, exposure to additional learning opportunities, and networking with peers,” he says.

Dr Van Breda adds, “The new Sci-Ed Science Education Centre at the UFS is creating a platform and space for such initiatives. Since Sci-Ed will accommodate learners from all grades, it will also contribute towards laying sound foundations in the early school years for success later, especially in Mathematics and Science. Teacher professional development, learner support, and parent-empowering initiatives are at the base of the activities offered at Sci-Ed. 

Acknowledging the centre’s future contributions during its opening ceremony on 6 December 2022, Dr Tate Makgoe, the MEC for Basic Education in the Free State, said the provincial government will send its Foundation Phase teachers here to further strengthen their skills.

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