By Themba Gadebe
This week sees the first group of grade 12 learners sitting for their final senior certificate examinations.
The 2007 senior certificate examinations have started in some provinces with the rest to follow next week.
Both the Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces have confirmed the senior certificate examinations started on a good note.
About 858 754 full-time and part-time learners countrywide will be sitting for the historic examinations. The number of candidates has increased from last year?s 744 540 and 735 126 in 2005.
These Grade 12 learners are also the last group of pupils who will write based on the old education curriculum, as it is being phased out this year.
Spokesperson for the National Educational Department Lunga Ngqengelele, said it was important for these learners to succeed in this year?s examinations because the curriculum was being phased out to make way for phasing in of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) in 2005.
Learners who do not succeed will be given an opportunity to re-write again when the supplementary examinations are held in June next year.
"We are trying to avoid a situation where two separate curriculums will be written in the same period. By October next year, all students should be writing the New National Certificate examinations,' Mr Ngqengelele said.
The decision to allow learners to re-write was taken by the Council of Education Ministers in Cape Town in June. This will enable the department to fast track the phasing out of the old Senior Certificates and make way for the new National Senior Certificate under the NCS.
The council is chaired by Education Minister Naledi Pandor and comprises all nine provincial education MECs.
The first National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations will be written in 2008, but learners will be given until 2011 to phase out the old curriculum, in line with the policy on the NCS.
Learners who might fail again in June next year will have up to 2011 to write under the old curriculum as private candidates.
The Grade 10 class of 2006 were the first to study under the new curriculum. When they are in matric in 2008, they will write the first National Senior Certificate Examinations.
The new curriculum included two new subjects namely, Life Orientation and Mathematics Literacy. These subjects are compulsory, although one can opt for Mathematics as opposed to Mathematics Literacy.
Mr Ngqengelele said all examination preparations were well on track.
"The reports from all provinces indicate that everything is set for the exams to start.
We urge learners to continue to use the material we are providing in the newspapers because it contains previous question papers. We also appeal to parents to ensure a conducive environment for study,' he said.
These materials are provided as part of department?s recovery plan to assist learners to catch up on time lost during the four-week public service strike in June.
The recovery plan also saw class time being extended to weekends and holidays