Minister Motshekga Grilled Over 20% Maths Pass Mark

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The official opposition party of South Africa has maintained that the country’s Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga must explain the lack of consultation associated with the 20% maths pass mark.

According to the Democratic Alliance (DA) party, it’s excessively uncool for the national Department of Basic Education to issue a ‘special condonation’ instructing all schools to promote senior level learners (Grade 7, 8 and 9) who achieve only 20% for Maths in 2016 without making necessary consultations.

Before now, learners have to achieve a 40% mark for maths in order to proceed to the next grade.

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Stressing that the directive to lower maths pass mark to 20% was issued without consultation with the provincial departments and other stakeholders like teachers’ unions and school governing body associations, DA charged that Minister Motshekga must explain her unilateral decision on the issue.

Thus, Gavin Davis, DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education has demanded of the Minister to explain her 20% maths pass mark decision.

Precisely, the Shadow Minister highlighted that South Africans would like to know:



  1. Why such a ‘special condonation’ for mathematics was deemed necessary;
  2. How many Grade 7, 8 and 9 learners fall between the 20% and 40% mathematics mark;
  3. Whether any consultation took place before the directive was issued;
  4. Whether this ‘special condonation’ is a temporary or permanent alteration to the pass requirements; and
  5. Why the Minister waited until the very end of the school year to adjust the pass requirements.

“There may be a good reason, in some cases, to exempt certain learners from passing mathematics at the required level.

“But a sweeping change to the mathematics pass requirements is not the answer because it removes incentives for educators and learners to do well in the subject.

“Indeed, the special condonation is completely at odds with the National Development Plan (NDP), which states that ’90 percent of learners in grades 3, 6 and 9 must achieve 50 percent or more’ in mathematics,” Davis argued.

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Thereafter, Davis pointed out that the 20% maths pass mark decision came a week after the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) ranked South Africa second-last in maths Grade 8.

With that, the DA Shadow Minister asserted that the move can only be interpreted as a signal that maths education is not being taken seriously by the national government.

“It is common cause that far too few learners emerge from school numerate enough to compete in global knowledge economy. Instead of giving learners a free pass, we should be equipping learners to succeed in mathematics,” Davis counselled