Despite South Africa’s low global ranking for the quality of its mathematics and science education, the results from the matric class of 2015 show that matters are getting worse.
A 2015 report by The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked South Africa last in the quality of mathematics and science education.
South Africa also finished near last – 139 out of 143 countries – when looking at the overall quality of its education system.
On Tuesday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that the matric pass rate of 70.7% in 2015 was down from 75.8% achieved in 2014.
In it’s 2015 technical report, the Education Department pointed to a drop in results in science and mathematics-related subjects.
Equal Education noted that the total number of matric candidates who passed mathematics increased from 120,523 in 2014 to 129,481 in 2015.
However, this reflected a 3-point decline in the percentage of those who wrote matric who passed mathematics.
Similarly, there is also an increase in the number of matric candidates who passed science – from 103,348 in 2014 to 113,121 in 2015. This was a 2.5% decline in the pass percentage, EE said.
799,306 pupils wrote matric exams in 2015 – 667,925 were full-time and 131,381 part-time. This is the highest number of candidates ever to write matric exams in South Africa.
The below table shows the percentage of matrics who achieved 30% and above in maths and science-related subjects between 2013- 2015:
The technical report showed that for mathematics, the percentage of pupils who achieved above 40% in 2015 was 31.9% – down from 35.1% in 2014.
For physical science, 36.1% of the matric class of 2015 achieved above 40% – versus 36.9% in 2014.
Labour market economist Loane Sharp has warned in the past that universities were not producing enough engineers, doctors and scientists, as these degrees required a minimum of 60% for maths.
The education department’s report noted that the distinction percentage waned in key subjects in 2015.