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Shocking drop-out rates: where in South Africa the fewest kids make it to matric

Shocking drop-out rates: where in South Africa the fewest kids make it to matric

Closer analysis of the 2016 matric results has revealed that there is an extremely high rate of school pupils dropping out before reaching grade 12 – and the Democratic Alliance suspects foul play.

According to the party, there is some speculation that learners have been ‘culled’ ahead of the 2016 matric exams in a bid to inflate the matric pass rate. It has called for an investigation into the matter.

The Department of Basic Education’s figures, show that 1,100,877 learners enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014, but only 610,178 enrolled for Grade 12 in 2016 – showing an alarming rate of 44.6% of learners either dropping out of the system altogether or remaining stuck in Grade 10 and 11.

This pattern is visible across every province in the country, where the drop-out rate reaches as high as 54.4% in the Northern Cape.

The Free State, which took the title of the ‘best-performing’ province in the Matric exams saw more than half of its learners drop out between 2014 and 2015, which would make its ‘real’ pass rate far lower than the Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Province Grade 10 (2014) Grade 12 (2016) Drop-out rate Grade 12 pass Pass rate ‘True’ pass rate
Northern Cape 22 034 10 041 54.4% 7 902 78.7% 35.9%
North West 67 734 32 045 52.7% 26 448 82.5% 39.0%
Free State 55 293 26 786 51.6% 23 629 88.2% 42.7%
Eastern Cape 154 220 82 902 46.2% 49 768 59.3% 31.9%
Limpopo 189 170 101 807 46.2% 63 595 62.5% 33.6%
KwaZulu Natal 264 816 147 648 44.2% 98 032 66.4% 37.0%
Mpumalanga 94 528 54 251 42.6% 41 801 77.1% 44.2%
Gauteng 174 471 103 829 40.5% 88 381 85.1% 50.7%
Western Cape 75 791 50 869 32.9% 43 716 86.0% 57.7%
South Africa 1 100 877 610 178 44.6% 442 672 72.5% 40.2%

“Because the pass rate is expressed as a percentage of the learners who wrote, it doesn’t take into consideration the learners who didn’t make it to matric,” the DA said.

“Any assessment of performance must take into account the number of learners retained in the system.”

It has been raised by many critics that the matric results are easily ‘gamed’, where schools may prejudice their own learners in order to attain a high pass rate. This would include cases where learners who submit a poor performance are kicked out of school, or held back so as not to bring down the general performance.

The DA has called for an investigation into the high drop-out rate, and to look into whether schools have been ‘culling’ students.


Read: Forget 72.5% – South Africa’s “true” 2016 matric pass rate is far worse


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  • Lone Stranger

    Do you know what grinds my gears. When they say that some students can’t do so well, due to them being poor. That has nothing to do with it. It is just plain laziness. If they really want to they can pass with flying colors. There are always some students from rural areas that shine with distinctions. They did not use the “I’m poor” excuse to make people feel sorry for them. The fact that they are poor to fuels the desire to become better and get out of that situation.

    No one is stupid. Just to give an excellent example. Majority of the dropouts will probably do into crime to put food on the table. I can be amazed sometimes of how crafty thieves can be. If they just used that drive they have in robbing and place it in school, they could would be absolutely brilliant. I’m serious. South Africa have some of the most advance banking systems in the world and yet these thieves can still rob you blind without you even knowing it. That takes serious planning and mind power.

    • Carter deshaun

      So you don’t think being “poor” has an effect on your performance…. i guess You also don’t think being blind has an effect on your ability to drive.. i mean it’s not impossible, but It doesn’t make it any easier does it..

      Consider the challenges faced by a student from Alexandra vs a student from sandton (regardless of race).. chances are, the former Probably has siblings to take care of, an absent father, an unemployed mother, poor school infrastructure, lack of nutrition etc… at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how motivated you are, when everything is stacked against you, you’re only human..

      But, of course, it’s easy for us to comment solutions on businessTech. Until We truly understand what these “poor” kids are going through, who are we to talk.. nobody fails on purpose, no?

    • Li

      Lone Stranger, i think you should refrain speaking with such confidence on issues you have no experience with. I’d like to introduce you to the real picture of life in “rural areas”, because that umbrella covers a whole lot of diversity in itself. You’ll really be sorry for these utterances, if you do give a damn.
      And oh, i am a medical doctor…i grew up in a village and i know for a fact MOST students don’t do well because of poverty, because that lack has different levels that don’t compare.

  • NosySnoopy

    The most important thing to do when solving a problem is to find the root cause and address that. Putting blame on anything else only causes more problems. Very few white schools have this problem and later in live we have BEE, AA and EE to address the inequality and white privilege. And it is privilege, but it is not undeserved privilege.

    Start at grass-roots level and fix education, including these drop outs. Introduce and maintain a proper feeding scheme at schools and don’t let corruption ruin that. Then we will achieve more than doing anything else.
    It is not a quick win, but a better long-term solution than what is currently on the table.

    • Lone Stranger

      I always said they should form a solid education foundation from the start of preschool. That doesn’t happen. If they did, there will be much less dropouts. I still say the 50% pass mark was still doable. I would even dare say 60% pass mark would be doable, if a proper foundation was in place. There is a good saying which always proves to be true; “Bend the tree while it is still young”. It does not happen in this country and the country is paying dearly for that mistake.

      • Tania

        The DOE have made concerted efforts to include youngsters into feeding schemes by making grade R compulsory. Undernourishment being a contributing factor to stunted growth and development, as you probably know. The problem in my opinion cannot only be addressed at school. It is a social problem, with poor parenting skills (requiring community colleges with compulsory parenting courses!!) 🙂 as well as an improved foundation phase education, as you point out. THAT, unfortunately involves SADTU, as more than 50% of the teachers in most provinces are unqualified to teach.

        • Li

          You have some insight Tania, but unfortunately what you know is sadly a tip of the biggest iceberg S.A could be harbouring

          • Tania

            You think I don’t know the rest? sex for sandwiches, the exploitation, physical and emotional abuse, HIV infections, lack of water, food, but mostly love and care.
            I’ve seen the worst of it, it rips one’s heart apart.
            I saw you are a doctor who comes from a rural village. Where do you work now?

    • Perhaps start with ‘up-skilling’ the teachers.Spemd on improving the schools & the service to them.I too have been preaching the necessity to start at the beginning- pre-school!

  • Ubaba meet Baba

    It’s like everything else the anc does these days, masterclass in obfuscation. Pity they aren’t clever enough to think of painting over the second layer of cracks, poking through the surface.

  • chunk

    Its just going to get far worse teachers are over burdened with paperwork and trying to pass kids who mite need more help, very little actual teaching being done lately and who suffers the most the poor.

  • Charles Ryder

    Sadly though SA spends one of the highest percentages of its GDP on educationits education system still is poor. Why? Could it be to do with teachers “buying” posts from corrupt education officials?

    • Li

      Or because of teachers having to teach on a system they themselves are totally clueless of? Maybe?

  • Khalid peer

    please break the drop out numbers to those who are withheld due to failing and those that actually did drop out. furthermore, then go and add this years condoned students to the matric class and reevaluate the numbers. the number posted here are not accurate, but are indicative of the problems. also, what do the kids who drop out, what do they do? Do they go to work, pregnant, die or become unemployed?

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