The scary maths trend in South Africa

Maths and science are often focused on when it comes to matric results, due to their importance at university and in the workplace.

Maths is needed to pursue many degree courses at university, especially those in the engineering and computer science fields.

Unfortunately, the state of maths and science teaching in South Africa often leaves much to be desired, and reports from 2018 showed that many school teachers fail to pass basic maths tests.

The standard of maths exams in the country have also been criticised, with education experts such as Jonathan Jansen stating that “passing Grade 12 in South Africa is actually quite easy, and it means very little”.

Maths and Science – 2016 to 2018

The latest reports from the department of education on the matric 2018 exams do not provide any relief when it comes to maths results, with fewer learners taking and passing matric maths in 2018 compared to previous years.

In 2016, over 56,000 learners passed matric maths with 50% or higher. In 2018, this figure was just over 50,000.

Science numbers in terms of overall learners writing the matric exam have also dropped from 2016 to 2018, but the number of students who passed with 50% or higher has increased.

The table below shows the trend of learners taking maths and science in matric over the past three years, along with the number of students who achieved above 50% in the subjects.

Maths and Physical Science – Matric 2016-2018
Year Total Wrote Total at 50% and Up Percentage at 50% and Up
2016 265,810 56,555 21.3%
2017 245,103 54,359 22.2%
2018 233,858 50,701 21.7%
Year Total Wrote Total at 50% and Up Percentage at 50% and Up
2016 192,618 47,586 24.7%
2017 179,561 48,260 26.9%
2018 172,319 51,466 29.9%

Maths Literacy

Matters do not look any better when it comes to maths literacy, an easier form of maths which has more “practical” applications.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of students taking the maths literacy exam has dropped, while the total number of students passing with 30% or higher and 40% or higher has also declined.

This means fewer students are taking and passing maths literacy at a level which shows basic competence.

Maths Literacy – Matric 2017-2018
Year Wrote Exam Passed 30% and Up Passed 40% and Up
2017 313,030 232,230 140,991
2018 294,204 213,225 133,568

Technical Maths

2018 also marked the the introduction of technical maths and technical sciences as new subjects.

The results for the subject leave much to be desired, however, with only 50% of technical maths learners managing above 30% in their exams.

The department of education reported the following results for technical maths and sciences.

Technical maths

  • Wrote – 10,025
  • Achieved above 30% – 5,078

Technical sciences

  • Wrote – 10,503
  • Achieved above 30% – 9,204

Now read: South Africa’s real matric pass rate – 40%

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The scary maths trend in South Africa