Bitter Truths You Didn’t Hear About South Africa’s Matric Results


Following the revelation by the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, that the pass rate for the South African matric for 2014 was 75.8%, there have been reactions and revelations that indicate that the pass rate was much lower than the minister had led the public to believe. This revelation brought about reactions from individuals who have  described the said matric results as an illusion, a fraud, and a poor indication of the state of South Africa’s education system.

The pass rate formerly being 60.6% in 2009, has risen dramatically under Zuma’s regime to whooping 78.2% in 2014. Now while this seemed like a sign of good progress which should be celebrated, Academics have warned that the increase looks suspicious as it could not be attributed to a good turnover on the part of the ministry of education. So the big question remains, to what do we owe the dramatic rise in the pass rate of the matric results in 2014.

See also: Only 1 In Every 10 South African Students Will Get A Place At A University

And the answer is that we owe the dramatic rise to some hidden facts which the honorable minister and the media have failed to acknowledge. The pass rate of 78.2% only tells one part of a really long and large story when we consider the following:

  • The number of learners that drop out before they reach matric.
  • The quality rather than the number of the matric passes.
  • The number of Bachelor passes which allow university entrance
  • The number of students who passed Mathematics and Physical Sciences

When the Minister announced the pass rate, two important numbers were the main focus: the number of matriculants who wrote the exams, and the percentage who passed. The first number which said that there were 688,660 matriculants who wrote the exams was wrong.

The above figure is actually the number of students who registered to write the matric exams it does not mean that all of them actually sat for the exams. The number who ended up sitting for the exams was much lower. This would mean that if we calculate the pass rate using the number of those who actually sat for the exam rather than the number of those who registered, the pass rate would be much lower that 78.2%.

In 2003, 1,252,071 pupils entered into the South African public schooling system as Grade 1 pupils which is absolutely great. Fast forward to 2015 i.e 12 years later and only 532,860 students wrote the 2014 matric exams.

With the number above, if one looks at how many of the grade 1 learners successfully finished matric, the “true” pass rate is 32%.

The table below gives a better view of the matric result as we were informed and the matric results as they truly are:

Class of 2014 stats

What we thought they were What they really are
Wrote Matric 688,660 532,860
Passed 522,004 403,874
Diploma access 166,689
Degree access 150,752
Pass rate (official) 75.8% 75.8%
Gr. 1 (Enrolled 2003) 1,252,071 1,252,071
Gr. 8 (Enrolled 2010) 965,394 965,394
Gr. 10 (Enrolled 2012) 1,065,329 1,065,329
Gr. 12 (Registered 2014) 688,660
Pass rate (vs matric regiments) 58.65%
Pass rate (vs Gr. 10 enrollments) 49.00% 37.91%
Pass rate (vs Gr. 8 enrollments) 54.07% 41.84688,660%
Pass rate (vs Gr. 1 enrollments) 41.69% 32.26%

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Senior researcher at Africa Check, Kate Wilkinson, said that it would be misleading to suggest that an improvement in the matric pass rate reflects improvements in the education system as a whole.

“A high dropout rate skews the results. Approximately 50% of pupils drop out of school before they sit their final exams,” said Wilkinson.

In the same vein, Annette Lovemore, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education, said that the matric results, at first glance, appear to indicate that the education system is healthy, and improving constantly. “The system, however, is not as healthy as the Minister would have the nation believe,” said Lovemore.

She maintained that it is essential to consider the quality of the matric pass, and not just the number of passes. “When more than 50% of learners passing are passing their individual subjects at less than 50%, then there is a problem,” she said.

Even the Department of Basic Education said that the “matric pass rate on its own is not a good measure of academic achievement in the schooling system, nor was the pass rate ever designed for this”.

It would therefore be a mistake to celebrate a high matric pass rate as the main measure of educational excellence.

Sources: Mybroadband, MyVoip Wireless