The Jewish Report Editorial

Sculpting distinctive, unique individuals

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The matric year is the culmination of our childhood. It’s the finale of 12 years working towards those final exams. It’s the most stressful year of the first quarter of our lives.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jan 16, 2020

It challenges us to find the strength within to push through the nerves, pressure, stress, and long hours of studying. It isn’t easy, but most of us (even the parents) get through it.

While there is way too much pressure to get distinctions, getting a full house or even multiple distinctions is not the be-all and end-all. And if you don’t get them, it certainly doesn’t mean you didn’t put everything into doing your best. It also doesn’t mean you don’t deserve as much kavod (honour) as those who got 10 distinctions.

In fact, back in my day (oh boy, do I sound old!), some of the smartest and now most successful people didn’t get any distinctions. For us then, as it is now, it was about what you would need to get into your chosen degree – if you planned to go the university route.

Last year’s matriculants from King David Victory Park, Yeshiva, and Torah Academy recognised the unfair competition and pressure for multiple distinctions. They put their proverbial foot down on honouring only those with the most distinctions on our pages rather than the entire student body’s achievements and hard work. (See page 16.)

They recognised that many of those in their year who got university entrance passes and few or no distinctions worked just as hard. Do those youngsters not deserve the honour of having their pictures on the pages of the SA Jewish Report as success stories? Well, I honour them for this values-based and moral decision. It shows what a good education they actually got … Kol Hakavod!

I agree with many of the educators in our Jewish school system that there is much honour and respect due to those matriculants who battle with learning issues and came out with university exemptions and, in many cases, distinctions too. (See page 32.)

I know a few such matriculants for whom school was tough, and every year was a battle because of dyslexia, processing difficulties, and other learning issues. Many of them will fly now they are out of school, but there was nothing easy about school for them. So, the achievement of getting through matric for them is massive.

I salute every one of those youngsters and the educators that helped them along the way, not just at the Jewish schools, but schools like Crossroads and Bellavista primary schools that gave them the basic tools to get through matric.

In our special annual matric edition (and the first edition of 2020), we talk to the educators that make the difference in matric. (See page 32). We ask them what it takes to get pupils through this year with the best possible results. The truth is, every one of us knows what it takes because we too were once those pupils. We know that teachers who are passionate about what they teach and believe in their pupils will get results.

I remember those teachers who stood out for me. I remember those who made the subjects come alive. Those teachers are a gift that schools give scholars.

There must be a fair number of such teachers at our schools considering the 100% pass rates and overall numbers of distinctions. Our schools soared.

King David High School Linksfield had the most top performing matriculants in the Independent Education Board matric of 2019. Redhill – not a Jewish school, but one run by Joseph Gerassi, who won the Absa Jewish Achiever Professional Excellence Award in 2019 – was third on this list, with four such matriculants. Yeshiva College had three, and King David Victory Park two. These schools stood out because these pupils ranked in the top 5% in the country.

Then, two Torah schools, Beis Yaacov Girls High School and Torah Academy in Johannesburg, were ranked in the top ten department of basic education schools nationwide in terms of the number of distinctions per student.

Beis Yaacov came second with an average of 3.85 distinctions per matriculant, and Torah Academy came fourth, with 2.9 distinctions per learner. Kol Hakavod to both these schools and their achievements. They sure do defy the belief that the schools that spend many hours studying kodesh (holy) studies don’t focus on getting top matric results. So much for that myth! (See page 26.)

Herzlia was also on one of the top-ten lists, with 3.67 distinctions per matriculant.

The bottom line is that our schools are producing well rounded, moral, and interesting young adults who are ready to go into the world and become successful members of society. We have every reason to be proud.

In line with taking the focus away from the individual number of distinctions, the SA Jewish Report and the individual schools chose to profile a handful of unique individuals whose matric year was not just about being “head down in the books”.

I would have loved to write about all our winners, but we had to select just a few to showcase the many unique individuals. (See pages 30 and 31.) Kol Hakavod to all of 2019’s matriculants! We wish you everything of the best for your future.

Shabbat Shalom, and all the best for 2020!

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