Matric results an ‘unreliable indicator’ of school system

The current pass rate does not accurately reflect the future trajectory of the majority of the class of 2023.

The current pass rate does not accurately reflect the future trajectory of the majority of the class of 2023.

Published Jan 22, 2024


Though positive, the current pass rate does not accurately reflect the future trajectory of the majority of the class of 2023.

This was according to education movement Equal Education (EE), who said the annual matric pass rate was a “misleading barometer” of the true health of the schooling system and had to be viewed with caution.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday announced the matric results which saw 572 983 candidates pass the 2023 National Senior Certificate exams, out of 890 000 full- and part-time candidates. She noted that when the class of 2023 enrolled for Grade 1 in 2012, they were 1.2 million. The Department of Basic Education database showed that about 740 566 had progressed from Grade 1 in 2012 to Grade 12 in 2023.

EE noted that despite the public hype around the 82.9% pass rate, the national pass mark alone was an “unreliable indicator” of the success of the schooling system because it hid certain conditions in the sector contributing to inefficiencies in the system.

“Not all learners make it to matric, and not all those that do, succeed. Even though some learners choose to leave at the end of Grade 9 to pursue their education through technical and vocational education and training (TVET), many simply drop out before they reach matric.

A better insight into the health of the schooling system will be to consider details such as provincial performance trends, the types or quality of the passes (particularly across no-fee paying schools), and the throughput rate. For instance, our analysis of matric results over the last decade (2012–22) shows that while there is generally an upward trend in the throughput rate across all provinces, education departments are still struggling to get all learners to the finishing line ...

“A closer look at the quality of passes learners achieve over the years exposes fault lines in education delivery – some of which are a result of apartheid education – that require urgent intervention to ensure equal full access to quality schooling. The value of the matric certificate must be worth the paper it is printed on.

“It is therefore important that the conversation goes beyond the public hype of the pass mark into its true potential to propel learners into the future they dream of,” EE said.

Build One South Africa acting spokesperson Roger Solomons said that the drop-out rate was alarming: “Four out of 10 learners (38%) who began Grade 1 in 2012 did not matriculate last year. That means there are almost 470 000 young persons who will find it difficult to get a job and will likely become part of the youth unemployment line.”

Meanwhile Education MEC David Maynier hailed matriculants at the Centre of Science and Technology (Cosat) in Khayelitsha for their 99% pass rate. “Moreover, 61.2% of their candidates achieved a bachelors pass, which is a key indicator of quality matric passes. Every candidate at the school enrols for Mathematics and Physical Sciences, which are key indicators of education quality. This year, Cosat achieved a Mathematics pass rate of 99.0%, and a Physical Sciences pass rate of 91.3%. The school produced a whopping 107 distinctions this year, including 10 Mathematics distinctions (including 3 candidates with over 90% for Mathematics) and four Physical Sciences distinctions,” he said.

Cape Times