South Africa’s real 2022 matric pass rate — 53%

South Africa’s “real” 2022 matric pass rate is 53%, much lower than the impressive figure revealed by the Department of Basic Education last night.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced the 2022 matric results for public schools on Thursday, 19 January 2023.

Motshekga revealed that 922,034 matrics registered for exams, including 725,146 full-time and 109,419 part-time candidates.

80.1% of the full-time candidates — or 580,555 — passed.

This was the second-highest “official” pass rate yet and a substantial improvement over the 76.4% recorded by the Class of 2021.

The percentage is calculated as a proportion of the number of pupils that registered to write year-end exams.

But advocacy groups like Equal Education and Zero Dropout use different metrics to calculate what they consider to be the country’s “real” matric pass rates.

Equal Education calculates its rate by using the number of learners from the last matric grouping that passed as a proportion of those who enrolled in Grade 2.

Grade 2 is preferred over Grade 1 because there tends to be a disproportionately high number of learners held back after their first year of school.

Other groups consider Grade 10 enrolments a good baseline, as school students can exit the basic education system after Grade 9.

It is reasonable to assume that those who enrol for Grade 10 have ambitions to finish their matric.

The table below shows the “real” matric pass rate based on learner throughput from the Grade 2, Grade 8, and Grade 10 enrollments of 2021’s matrics.

South Africa’s real matric pass rate
Cohort Enrolled Percentage that passed Grade 12 final exams
Grade 2 cohort (2012) 1,074,788 54.0%
Grade 8 cohort (2018) 995,994 58.3%
Grade 10 cohort (2020) 1,104,452 52.5%
Grade 12 cohort (2022) 775,630 74.8%

Considering that 1,104,452 learners were enrolled in Grade 10 in 2020, one “true” pass rate that encapsulates drop-out rates would be 53%.

Using Equal Education’s approach with the Grade 2 enrollment figure, that number increases slightly to 54%.

Another way to measure the pass rate is to use the Grade 8 cohort from 2018. In that case, the pass rate becomes 58.3%.

Of the 775,630 matrics that enrolled full-time at public schools at the beginning of the year, 74.8% passed.

Motshekga acknowledged that the drop-out rate is an issue that should be of national concern.

Real pass rate worse despite official rate’s increase

The Grade 10 cohort pass rate of 52.5% is slightly lower than the 53.4% of 2021.

It is still around ten percentage points higher than the typical rates for several years since at least 2010, including in 2019, when the highest official pass rate of 81.3% was recorded.

The jump was attributed to several possible causes — including that a higher number of matrics than usual had sat for their exams than in previous years.

This was again the case this year, with 3% more full-time candidates writing in 2022 and 14% more part-time candidates.

In addition, the assessment regime for Grades 10 and 11 was adjusted to account for learning time lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During a briefing on Thursday afternoon, basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli said several factors impacted the latest cohort of matrics’ results, including:

  • Trimmed curriculum to fundamentals in Grade 10 and Grade 11
  • Amended assessment programme for Grade 10 and Grade 11
  • The cumulative effect of learning losses
  • Insufficient psycho-social support
  • Reduction in exams and greater focus on school-based assessment (40/60 relationship)
  • Learning under Covid-19 conditions in general

Mweli said that 2022’s matrics also experienced learning challenges due to load-shedding.

He said this effect was not limited to learners from poorer households.

“I was really appalled to observe the impact of load-shedding on learners who should be middle-class who have got an option for alternative energy,” Mweli said.

“If that has been the case, then you can ask yourself what impact the [less fortunate] learners would have probably felt.”

Considering these factors and the results, Mweli said the class of 2022 could be one of the “strongest” to date.

“This class was possibly the worst affected of all the three classes that we’ve had (impacted) by Covid-19,” Mweli said.

“The results of the class of 2022 is a strong signal of recovery and renewal.”

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South Africa’s real 2022 matric pass rate — 53%