4 tables and graphs you should see ahead of South Africa’s matric results

 ·5 Jan 2020
National Higher Certificate Matric

The Department of Basic Education will release the national matric results on 7 January 2020, while the country’s provinces will host top achievers and announce provincial results on 8 January 2020.

In 2018 the department announced that the matric cohort achieved a pass mark of 78.2%.

The matric pass rate has steadily increased over the past decade – from 60.6% in 2009 to 78.2% in 2018, and according to the City Press, the matric pass rate will increase even further in 2019 and will reach 80% for the first time.

However, the annual matric statistics do not tell the full story and a number of recent reports provide a broader overview of South Africa’s matriculants.

‘The real pass rate’

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga published statistics focusing on the drop out rates at South Africa’s schools in November 2019.

Responding in a parliamentary Q&A session, Motshekga said that there is a lot of confusion about drop-out rates – including how these are defined and measured.

The minister provided the below statistics that shows the percentage of 22-25 year-olds who have completed at least Grade 12 for each year since 2009, using General Household Survey data.

“For these calculations, one needs to select an age range which is old enough so as to avoid including large percentages of youths still in school and therefore possibly still going to complete Grade 12 (this would cause an underestimate of grade 12 completion) but which is still young enough so as to reflect recent trends in school completion.

“For this reason, the age range of 22-25 year-olds has been selected. According to this methodology, the percentage of youths who have completed grade 12 has increased from about 44.9% in 2009 to about 53.8% in 2018. It should also be emphasised that these are estimates based on a nationally representative sample of households,” she said.

Drop-out rates for each grade

Another way of measuring drop-out rates is to look at the percentage of learners who drop out after each grade, said Motshekga.

The table below shows the drop-out rates and survival rates for those born during 1992-1994 – and surveyed between 2016-2018.

The survival rates in the table show the percentage of individuals who reached each grade. The rate was then converted to show the number of individuals, out of a 1,000 individuals who reached each grade.

The final column also shows the percentage of all individuals reaching particular grades who then drop out before attaining the next grade. This methodology is more in line with commonly used international definitions of dropout rates.

South Africans with matric and bachelor’s degrees: 1994 vs 2019

Government recently published a ‘review’ of South Africa’s first 25 years of democracy at the end of 2019.

A key focus of the review is education, with the government highlighting the number of South Africans that have achieved a matric certificate and bachelor’s degree over the last 25 years.

“Learner performance in Grade 12 National Senior Certificate (NSC) has been on an upward trajectory, rising from 58% in 1994 to 78.2% in 2018,” the review states.

“The number of students who are passing grade 12 is on an upward trajectory even though it has fluctuated over the years.”

“The below figure shows that bachelor passes are still very low even though they are increasing over time, they are not enough to support the skills needs of the country.”

More learners from lower quintiles are passing the NSC and showed improvements in international assessments, the review states.

Despite these improvements, the review notes that there are issues with the ‘quality of academic outcomes’.

Only 172,043 learners (33.6%) of grade 12 students managed to pass at bachelor level in 2018, against the 255,000 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) target for 2018, it said.

“Though up from 18% in 1994, only 21.7% and 29.9% of learners passed mathematics and science at 50% and above respectively in 2018. The number of learners writing physical science and mathematics has been declining from 192,618 and 265,810 in 2016 to 172,319 and 233 858 in 2018, respectively.”

“The shackle of Bantu education that black children and women should not be taught mathematics and science still casts a shadow over the education system,” it said.

Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO) 

In October 2019 Motshekga published 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.

When asked about the pass rate of these students, the minister 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

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