Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga recently announced that the matric pass rate for 2015 was 70.7%, down from 75.8% in 2014.
She said the drop could be attributed to a number factors.
Matric enrollments for 2015 were higher than previous years, which placed pressure on resources, and the exams were set to a higher standard, she said.
A policy was also introduced to transfer more failed learners to grade 12 as “progressed candidates”.
Of the 65,671 candidates who were progressed, 58,656 wrote the exams, and 22,060 (37.6%) passed.
If only non-progressed candidates had written the exams in 2015, the pass rate would have been 74.1%, said Motshekga.
Matric pass rate not a full reflection of quality of education
The Department of Basic Education said in 2015, 667,925 full-time candidates enrolled for matric, while 644,536 registered to take the National Senior Certificate exam.
Of those who wrote, 455,825 passed.
However, education analysts have warned that the matric pass rate is a poor indicator of the health of the education system.
Two areas of concern are the high dropout rate in South Africa, which skews the results, and the fact that a pass mark is below 50%.
Matric pass rate: 1995 to 2015
The graph below shows the matric pass rate from 1995 to 2015.