Matric results ‘important barometer’, but also look beyond


This year is an election year and some experts warn that the matric results should perhaps be taken with a bigger pinch of salt than usual.

The Solidarity School Support Center (SOS) labels the matric results as one of the most important barometers of the health of the country’s education system and the national pass rate of 82.9% shows an improvement (of 2.8%) compared to last year. However, the question must be asked whether the figure is a true reflection of the quality of education in South Africa.

“The fact that this year is an election year cannot be ignored and political motives clearly played a role in the minister’s (of education, Angie Motshekga) presentation of the results,” says Melanie Buys, Head of Development at the SOS.

“The performance of provinces such as the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, which are not traditionally regarded as academic leaders, also raises eyebrows, especially in light of the Western Cape’s unexpected fifth place. It makes one wonder about the reliability of the results.”

The Free State performed best with a pass rate of 89.03%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (86.3%), Gauteng (85.38%), North West (81.63%), the Western Cape (81, 54%), the Eastern Cape (81.42%), Limpopo (79.54%), Mpumalanga (76.95%) and the Northern Cape (75.84%).

Performance based on ‘inclusivity basket’

The council of education ministers approved a so-called provincial inclusive basket to ensure monitoring and evaluation of all provincial education departments.

This basket includes performance in the National Senior Certificate examination according to the school fee payment status of schools; performance in critical subjects such as accounting, mathematics, physical science and technical science; participation in mathematics; matric exemption; the number of learners with distinctions; and the throughput rate.

When using these criteria, Mpumalanga, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape achieved the highest throughput rate.

The Free State, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng achieved higher percentage pass rates, while the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West have greater participation in mathematics in terms of school fee status.

In terms of these criteria, Limpopo and the Free State have better performances in accounting.

The Western Cape, the Free State, Gauteng and North West have – when looking at school fee status – higher achievements in mathematics and physical science. The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal also have a higher pass rate with distinctions, Motshekga announced earlier.

Other factors also play a role in success

The SOS says high-performing schools, also in less privileged communities, prove that good management, competent teachers and learners encouraged by their communities can have a significant effect. However, the fact that schools that take greater control over their teaching perform better speaks against the government’s centralist policy that does not lead to the best educational outcomes.

“Good teaching and reliable standards, such as those of the IEB, cannot be dismissed as privilege. Factors such as a strong principal, disciplined teaching staff, a culture of work and commitment, low absenteeism of learners and teachers, limited negative impact of trade unions, well-trained teachers and involved parents are the reason for the success of a school,” says Buys.

She also says that while the achievements of matriculants are celebrated, it must also be recognized that a pass rate “does not tell the full story”.

“We must strive for an education system that not only produces high pass rates, but also one that provides fair and quality education to all learners. Success is not only measured by a number, but especially by the ability of learners to seize the challenges and opportunities of the future.”

Dr. Wynand Boshoff, FF Plus MP and the party’s main spokesperson on basic education, agrees that the real test for the higher pass rate lies in further study and in the labor market.

The minister rightly pointed out that excessive attention to the pass percentage paints an incomplete picture, says Boshoff.

“However, the real test for matriculation is whether successful matriculants are also successful post-school students, entrepreneurs, or entrants to the labor market. After all, matric is not an end in itself, but preparation for the rest of life.”

Boshoff congratulated those who performed well; at the same time, he encouraged those who did not achieve the desired outcomes not to give up.