South Africa’s ‘real’ matric pass rate is only 55%

 ·19 Jan 2024

Although the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has welcomed the official 2023 matric pass rate of 82.9%, critics have come to a more realistic number by looking at all the students who didn’t even make it to matric.

The DBE announced on Thursday, 18 January 2024, that the matric class of 2023 managed to keep up the trend of beating the previous year’s pass rate, posting a result of 82.9% for the year.

However, while the official pass rate is cause for celebration, it does not take into account the vast number of learners who drop out of the public school system along the way.

According to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, 897,775 matrics registered for exams, including 715,719 full-time and 182,056 part-time candidates.

This number is a lot lower than the 1.2 million learners who started with the same cohort in 2012 – representing over 490,000 learners who never made it to matric.

This means that the learners who passed matric in 2023 represent around only 55% of the learners who started school in 2012.

GradeNo. of students
Grade 1 cohort (2012) 1 208 973
Grade 2 cohort (2013)1 116 427
Grade 3 cohort (2014)1 073 447
Grade 4 cohort (2015)1 088 804
Grade 5 cohort (2016)1 025 674
Grade 6 cohort (2017)978 130
Grade 7 cohort (2018)960 151
Grade 8 cohort (2019)1 057 640
Grade 9 cohort (2020)982 574
Grade 10 cohort (2021)1 081 618
Grade 11 cohort (2022)928 050
Grade 12 cohort (2023)717 377
Source: The Outlier

The opposition DA has also disputed the DBE’s pass rate, arguing that the real matric pass rate only improved from 54.6% in 2022 to 55.3% in 2023.

The real matric pass rate is calculated by accounting for the number of learners that dropped out and never made it to matric.

Although some learners pursue matric through technical and vocational education and training (TVET) after grade 9, a large number drop out completely.

To account for the TVET learners, the DA used the real matric pass rate from the grade 10 cohort that should have completed the matric. 345,626 learners dropped out between grade 10 in 2021 and grade 12 in 2023.

Our sister publication, MyBroadband, has the real pass rate even lower at 53.0% when looking at grade 10.

When looking at Grade 2, which is used instead of Grade 1 due to the disproportionately high number of learners held back after their first year of studies, the real pass rate sinks to 51.3%.

“The real matric pass rate is an excellent indicator of not only Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her Department’s lack of success but also of the country’s,” the DA’s Baxolile Nodada said.

“This ANC government’s only focus seems to be quantity over quality, thinking that it is an improvement from previous years.

“This skewed focus on how many learners can be pushed through the system should be scrapped in favour of a focus on the quality of skills gained, so learners have a shot of being employable and bettering their circumstances.”

Read: The most expensive private schools in South Africa in 2024 – with one now at R400,000 a year

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter