South Africa’s latest matric pass rate shock

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has released new statistics focusing on the Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO) matric exams.

First introduced in November 2016, the MEO exams allowed struggling matric students to complete their examinations over two years.

Responding in a parliamentary Q&A session, Motshekga said that 37,610 students opted to write the MEO exams in 2016.

This increased to 64,154 students in 2017 and 88,828 students in 2018 – more than double the starting intake.

The below table shows how the popularity of this system grew across the country’s provinces since its introduction.

Province 2016 2017 2018
Eastern Cape 3 626 6 403 12 848
Free State 1 936 2 241 3 130
Gauteng 5 940 7 012 10 064
KZN 9 393 19 924 30 705
Limpopo 6 275 13 366 16 899
Mpumalanga 5 139 8 245 6 470
North West  2892 4 316 5 164
Northern Cape 1 462 1 395 2 085
Western Cape 947 1 252 1 463
National  37 610 64 154 88 828

Pass rates

When asked about the pass rate of these students, Motshekga said that the collected data for the first two years of the programme was not accurate.

“In its first and second year of implementation, this policy was not uniformly applied across provincial education departments and data collection and validation, was also in its infancy, and therefore the numbers relating to 2016 and 2017 are not an accurate account of the implementation of this policy,” she said,

However, she did provide data for the 2018/2019 exams, showing that of the 88,828 students who opted to write the MEO matric only 6,354 – or 7.1% – passed.

Of concern is that a large number of students (9,007) simply did not pitch to write the exams.

However, Motsheka said that these students cannot be termed ‘drop-outs’ as they have the option of writing the remaining subjects in November 2019 or in any subsequent examination.

The below table shows how many students achieved their National Senior Certificate, those that did not, and the number of registered students who did not write the exam.

Province Achieved NSC (2018/19) Did not achieve NSC (2018/19) Did not write June 2019 exam
Eastern Cape 414 9 408 3 026
Free State 395 2 729 6
Gauteng 1 053 8 813 198
KZN 2 126 22 986 5 593
Limpopo 1 105 15 743 51
Mpumalanga 677 5 747 46
North West 438 4 664 62
Northern Cape 113 1 952 20
Western Cape 33 1 425 5
National  6 354 73 467 9 007

Further data provided by Motsheka shows that:

  • The MEO students achieved a total of three distinctions – two in KZN and one in the North West;
  • A total of 352 MEO candidates attained a pass in mathematics;
  • A total of MEO 740 candidates achieved a pass in physical science.

Read: New changes to fight high drop-out rate at South African schools

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South Africa’s latest matric pass rate shock