The Department of Basic Education has published an explainer after repeated complaints about South Africa’s 30% matric pass requirement.
When the National Senior Certificate pass rate is announced each year, concerns arise around whether this can be relied on as an indicator of progress in the sector, the department said.
“Outrage is often expressed over the fact that the lowest possible pass mark per subject is 30%, however, what is not fully understood is that no candidate can obtain a National Senior Certificate if he/she passes all seven subjects at 30%. The learners must pass at least three subjects at 40%,” it said.
The department said that it is aware of arguments that raising this threshold to 50% would improve the education system; however, it said that this change would not be made as the system aims to encourage ‘different levels of achievement’.
“The 2014 ministerial committee, which recommended several changes to the National Senior Certificate, many of which have been followed through, did not recommend changing the lowest threshold. It is acceptable assessment practice to ensure that provision is made for different levels of achievement. All education systems have different levels of passes, not just one pass mark.”
For a learner to gain admission to a bachelor programme at one of the country’s universities, they must attain a minimum of 50% in four subjects, the department said. Similarly, a learner will need to attain a minimum of 40% in four subjects to enter a Diploma programme, it said.
“Hence it needs to be understood that candidates scoring 30% in most of their subjects will not qualify for admission to a Higher Education Institution. However, not all learners are expected to qualify for Higher Education admission,” the department said.
In 2020, approximately 62.4% of learners (361,240) obtained admission to bachelor and diploma studies and only 79,178 learners obtained a lower level of achievement, the department said.