Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Orville Higgins | That 45% rule

Published:Saturday | November 12, 2016 | 11:00 AM

The topic of what is loosely called the ISSA 45 per cent rule continues to resonate with the public. The rule states that for a student to take part in any ISSA-run sports competition, he or she must have attained a grade of 45 per cent or more in at least four subjects in the term preceeding the term of the competition.

There is reason for this.ISSA had to do something. There was once a time when students used to go schools and participate in sports only. Schools were operating, in too many cases, as glorified clubs. ISSA could not sit idly by and watch this happening. The 45 per cent rule, along with a mandatory 80 per cent attendance, was ISSA's way of regulating what was clearly an undesirable situation.

The time has come for ISSA to have a rethink. All laws get revised over time. Back in the day, students entering high school were, for the most part, those who sat the Common Entrance. This means that it was cream of the crop who matriculated into high school. The assumption is that a student who passed Common Entrance should be good enough to be able to get 45 per cent in four subjects.




Nowadays, students are entering high school predominantly through GSAT. This means that many students are entering high school who never operated at the level that Common Entrance students did. Many principals complain that a large part of their intake in first form came out of GSAT averaging 25 and 30 per cent.

It seems monumentally unfair to ask a student who entered high school with that kind of academic competence to be naturally able to garner 45 per cent in four subjects. It's a well-known fact that the average of students is likely to go down when leaving from primary to high school. If the average of the bright student is likely to drop from primary to high school, the principle must be the same for the slow student who enters with a 30 per cent average. Asking the slow student to dramatically raise their performance or sports will be taken from them is unjust.

To compensate for this, I know principals who have found a clever way around it. Rather than set these slow students 'normal' work for the form they are in, they make the tests or exams less difficult for these slow students. So, rather than the students stepping up, the system, at times, goes down to meet their level.

A slow child in first form can get 100 percent If what he is assigned is the task of saying the two times table! These students are, however, not necessarily improving. This explains why so many of our students are leaving high school with no subjects at all. They were taken in slow to begin with, and nothing in the system really caters for their development meaningfully.

The other point is that this academic requirement to participate in an extra-curricular competition is only for the sports student. The child who wants to participate in a cadet or singing competition doesn't have to be performing at any particular standard. It cannot be fair that two children in the same class perform equally dismally, yet the one with an interest in singing gets to participate in 'All Together Sing' on TVJ, while the one who is talented in sports only has to watch from the sidelines. There should be no greater premium on the student athlete doing well than any other student in the school.

The rule doesn't even force a child to perform throughout the year. A child who wants to participate in Champs need only get the 45 per cent in four in the September to December term. In the term during which Champs is staged, January to April, he can skylark all he wants, because it's the grade in the term before that counts.

The rule was useful to stem the practice of students only coming to school for sports. That was wrong. Because students are coming in at lower and lower levels of competence, attendance and effort should now be the new watchwords.

If a student is attending classes regularly and genuinely trying to do his work, and if he is committing no disciplinary breaches, there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to represent his school in sports, or anything else, for that matter. Over to you, ISSA.

Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to