Matric results show that South Africa’s schools are in crisis

Equal Education has said that the matric pass rate fails to account for learners who never make it to the end of high school and that the real numbers point to an education system in crisis.

“The Basic Education Department has systematically failed to address learner retention,” said Equal Education.

The matric pass rate announced by Minister Angie Motshekga each year only captures the percentage of learners who have written the National Senior Certificate exam.

It fails to account for learners who never make it to matric or for the differences in the quality of performance among those who pass the exams.

The matric pass percentage is therefore a superficial and misleading indicator of public education quality, said Equal Education.

Because of the “obsession” with the matric pass rate, there is a persistent overinvestment in Grade 12 – when the largest investment is needed in the early school grades.

Big dropout rate

The latest figures from the department show a big dropout rate for the class of 2016.

This dropout, said Equal Education, is fuelled by various factors, including:

  • The absence of a solid early schooling foundation. Learners fall behind academically, making learning a demotivating and stressful experience.
  • Schools discouraging or withholding weak learners from writing matric.
  • Poverty forcing learners to leave school to find work. This is exacerbated by the lack of reward for a “mere” matric pass.
  • Attending school is costly and burdensome.

The table below shows the dropout rate for the 2016 matric cohort from Grade 2 and Grade 10, to matric.

Grade 2 Dropout Rate
Year Grade 2 cohort Grade 12 cohort who wrote matric Dropout rate
2016 1,081,652 668,612 38.19%
2015 1,118,690 668,122 40.28%
2014 1,109,201 532,860 51.96%
2013 1,111,858 562,112 49.44%
2012 1,012,892 511,152 49.54%
Grade 10 Dropout Rate
Year Grade 10 cohort Grade 12 cohort who wrote matric Dropout rate
2016 1,139,872 668,612 41.34%
2015 1,146,285 668,122 41.71%
2014 1,103,495 532,860 51.71%
2013 1,094,189 562,112 48.63%
2012 1,039,762 511,152 50.84%

Now read: Big Matric 2016 upward mark adjustments

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Matric results show that South Africa’s schools are in crisis