Are Matric Results Indicators of Academic Success at University?
Two studies conducted by Health Sciences academics examined the relevance of matriculation scores to academic success at UKZN.
The studies - based on student cohorts enrolled in undergraduate programmes within the Disciplines of Occupational Therapy (OT) and Optometry - were recently published in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy and South African Journal of Higher Education.
The first study, co-authored by Mrs Pragashnie Naidoo, Mrs Nasreen Motala and Professor Robin Joubert, was titled: “Matriculation Scores as an Indicator of Academic Success in an Occupational Therapy Education Programme”.
The study was a retrospective review of 103 Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student records between 2005 and 2010, analysing: the year of entry, year of graduation, matriculation point average, number of years taken to complete the degree and degree averages.
The study found that graduates with lower matriculation scores took longer to complete their OT degrees than those with higher matriculation scores. Graduates with higher matriculation scores had a higher degree average.
The results confirmed that matriculation scores could be used as a predictor of degree averages in OT; however the authors said they viewed this finding with caution due to various confounding factors.
Mr Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, Ms Nishanee Rampersad, Ms Irene Venkatas of the Discipline of Optometry investigated whether National Senior Certificate (NSC) results predicted the academic performance of first-year optometry students at UKZN.
Mashige said while matriculation results were generally used as predictors of success at universities, the quality of the pass rates – ‘particularly in mathematics and physical science’ – remained a major concern, and reports suggested that NSC students showed decreased levels of competencies and preparedness at university.
In this study, the files of 84 first-year optometry students who wrote the NSC examination between 2009 and 2011 were reviewed and their matriculation scores recorded. These scores were compared to their results in modules within the first-year programme.
The researchers said the quality of the pass rates for matric Mathematics and Physical Science remained a major concern in South Africa. ‘Success in Mathematics and Physical Science is often used as an indicator of a good early schooling system and a predictor of the country global competitive advantage.’
However, their study found a weak correlation between matric scores and the professional academic achievement scores in first-year Optometry modules at UKZN.
As NSC scores could not be used as sole predictors of students’ academic success in the first year of the Bachelor of Optometry programme, results from the study ‘strengthened the long-held philosophy and views that the NSC results belie conceptual and skill limitations of school-leavers and the fact that university lecturers always said that in their experience, students over the years had become weaker particularly in the pure and applied sciences even though the matriculation results appeared stronger,’ said the researchers.