The real matric pass rate is closer to 40%, if the number of Grade 10s from 2015 who later became dropouts is taken into account, the Democratic Alliance said on Friday.
“The 2017 national matric pass rate for candidates who wrote the exams was 75.1%, while the ‘real’ pass rate – the number of Grade 10s from 2015 who passed Matric 2017 – was only 37.3%,” DA MP Nomsa Marchesi said in a statement.
“This is cause for serious concern, rather than celebration.”
According to Marchesi, 41% of students who in 2015 enrolled for Grade 10, did not make it to matric.
“It is clear that the schooling system is failing our learners not just in matric, but long before they reach the final years of school.”
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma welcomed the improvement in the pass rate from 72.5 to 75.1%.
“The president has noted the consistently improving pass rate since the dawn of freedom and democracy in the country,” read a statement from the Presidency.
Zuma said that those who failed or did not achieve a university pass should not lose hope.
“There are still plenty opportunities to be explored to fulfil their dreams.”
He reminded those who failed that they would have a chance to write supplementary exams – and those who did not make it to university, that they should approach Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and other vocational training centres.
‘Obsession with the matric pass rate’
Furthermore, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said that it welcomed the results, believing that they reflected a system which was “gradually maturing”.
The union said that while it was pleased with the “steady upward trend” in results for subjects like Mathematics, Maths Literacy and Physical Science, it was concerned at the decline seen in subjects like Visual Arts and Dramatic Arts, as well as vernacular minority languages.
“Any education system must value the role that subjects in the arts stream play in the context of nation building,” said Sadtu, adding that “languages are about identity, culture and nation building as well”.
Furthermore, subjects like Accounting, Business Studies and Agricultural Sciences had also shown a decline – which was worrying as the country needed such entrepreneurial skills, the union suggested.
“We need to embrace the agricultural sciences as a way towards the diversification of our economy.”
Nevertheless, it said that it continued to “caution against the obsession with the matric pass rate”.
“We cannot say it is the true indicator of the health of our education system judging by the huge numbers of learners who fall by the wayside and never finish schooling.”
Sadtu offered statistics suggesting that while a total of 1 182 011 learners entered Grade 1 in 2006, only just about 543 000 of those had written matric exams.
The union also made a commitment for the teaching practice of its members in 2018.
“We recommit ourselves to the principles of the quality learning and teaching campaign. We will be in class, on time, prepared and teaching.”
‘Where did the other kids go?’
Commenting on Twitter about the students who registered for Grade 1 in 2006 but did not make it to matric, education analyst Nic Spaull questioned: “Where did the other 400 000 odd kids go? Not to FET & into jobs – unlikely”.
Meanwhile the ANC said that the matric rate was an achievement that was the “outcome of years of toil, dedication and determination by the learners, educators, parents and other education stakeholders over a concerted period of time”.
The ruling party commended the Free State for its top performance and also said it was “heartened” by improvements in the results of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Kwazulu-Natal.
Also adding their response to the matric results, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) said the overall pass rate was “outstanding”.
“Continued growth in our results follows a ground-breaking decision by government to declare Fee-Free Higher Education.”
Students who had done well but were financially disadvantaged were encouraged to apply for the NYDA’s scholarships.
Political party, Freedom Front Plus said it believed that the current system, with its “lowered standards” was “too inadequate” in preparing students beyond school.
The Black Business Council (BBC) said that the pass rate was “commendable”.
“The BBC would further like to support the call advising government to introduce entrepreneurship as a compulsory subject in high school in order to inculcate a culture of job creators amongst learners,” commented George Sebulela, the BBC’s secretary general.
On a provincial level, Gauteng Premier David Makhura congratulated Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi on his position as the second best achieving province.
“Now your sight is set firmly on 1st place!”