School pass marks in South Africa vs The World

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga recently announced the pass rate for South Africa’s matric class of 2019.

The department said the national matric pass rate for the class of 2019 was 81.3% – up by 3.1 percentage points from 2018’s matric pass rate of 78.2%.

However, of the 616,754 full-time public school students who entered matric at the start of 2019, only 504,303 actually wrote the exams.

Additionally, if you compare the 1,052,080 learners who were in grade 10 in 2017 to the number of matrics who graduated in 2019, the real pass rate would be measured at 39%.

This is not nearly as high as the figure published by the Department of Basic Education, and it is especially concerning considering the relatively low marks required to obtain a National Senior Certificate (NSC).

South African pass mark

South Africans can qualify for three different passes – a Bachelor’s pass, a Diploma pass, and a Certificate pass.

The Bachelor’s pass qualifies you to apply for a degree at a university and requires the following:

  • Pass 6 of 7 subjects
  • At least 50% in four subjects
  • At least 40% in Home Language
  • At least 30% in the Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT)
  • At least 30% for one other subject

This is not the minimum pass required for matric graduation, however – the Certificate pass only requires a minimum pass mark of 30% for most subjects.

Certificate pass requirements are detailed below:

  • Pass 6 out of 7 subjects
  • At least 40% in Home Language
  • At least 40% in two other subjects
  • At least 30% for four other subjects

It should be noted that any mark that is 30% and above is a pass mark for a single subject, although passing every subject with only 30% would not qualify a student for this certificate.

Using a pass mark of 30%, we compared South Africa’s minimum subject pass marks to the secondary education graduation requirements of other prominent countries around the world.

The data shows that South Africa’s pass mark is lower than most other countries, although it is on par with places like Myanmar, which has the same fail line of 29%.

Secondary school pass rates compared

The table below compares secondary school pass marks in South Africa to other countries around the world.

Country Pass Mark
China 60%
Japan 60%
Sweden 60%
United States 50-60%
Canada 50%
Belgium 50%
Austria 50%
Germany 50%
Spain 50%
Ukraine 50%
Australia 50%
Nigeria 40%
India 40%
Ireland 40%
South Africa 30%
Myanmar 30%

Now read: How South Africa’s matric dropout rate hides the real pass rate

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School pass marks in South Africa vs The World