Matric pass rate could drop below 70%

Experts have told the Sunday Times that the 2021 matric pass rate will likely be substantially lower than in 2020.

This is due to pupils losing over half a year of classes in Grade 11 and suffering a pandemic-affected 2021 matric year.

“The crucially important foundation that Grade 11 work builds in preparation for Grade 12 was weakened,” said Basic Education Director-General Mathanzima Mweli earlier this month.

“We will therefore see the deleterious effect of lost teaching time, in particular on those subjects that are time intensive such as the languages, and subjects that are heavily dependent on language for utility, such as mathematical literacy.”

Professor Chika Sehoole, dean of the University of Pretoria’s education faculty, believes that the pass rate will decline by five to 10 percentage points from its 76.2% pass rate in 2020.

Sehoole added that rural schools were affected more than their urban counterparts.

“Urban schools were able to continue with online learning [during the lockdown] which mitigated the loss in terms of school attendance, whereas those opportunities weren’t available for schools in rural areas.”

Professor Nicky Roberts from the University of Johannesburg’s childhood education department agreed that 2021’s pass rate would be lower than in 2020.

“A matric is a two-year programme so the interruption in Grade 11 is significant. The matric class of 2021 had a far greater disruption to their matric year than the class of 2020,” she said.

“I think more interesting is the proportion of students who are passing at the National Senior Certificate level, higher certificate, diploma and bachelors’ pass levels,” added Roberts.

Mathanzima Mweli, basic education director-general

Gabrielle Wills of Stellenbosch University said that the matric pass rate provided by government is not an accurate reflection of how the pandemic has impacted learning.

“More informative matric metrics to consider include what proportion of Grade 10s in 2019 sat for the matric exam in 2021 and, of this group, what percentage passed; or identifying how high-level passes in maths and science have changed.”

While the official pass rate provided by government for 2020 was 76.2%, the “real” pass rate was far lower.

The proportion of learners who began Grade 10 in 2018 and who matriculated in 2020 was just 44.1% — and this paints a far more worrying picture of the current state of matric education.

Education specialist Professor Mary Metcalfe agreed that the pass rate provided by government distracts from the underlying issues within South Africa’s education sector.

“It detracts from an analysis of performance across the system, the dropout rate, and underlying inequalities in provincial comparisons,” said Metcalfe.

Matric results for public schools are expected to be released on Friday 21 January. The IEB’s said it would post its matric results on 19 January.

Now read: End “30% pass mark syndrome” at schools

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Matric pass rate could drop below 70%