Still too few pass maths and science


Maths and science are important subjects that are especially needed to pave the way to rare professions. That is why it is worrying that many learners – despite an increase in the overall pass rate – still do not pass these subjects or just skim through.

According to the technical report on the National Senior Certificate results, the mathematics pass rate increased from 55% in 2022 to 63.5% in 2023. The pass rate for science has also increased, from 74.6% in 2022 to 76.2% in 2023.

Learners need 40% to pass these subjects.

More learners also achieved over 60% for mathematics and science than the year before.

In 2022, 33,874 learners achieved above 60% for mathematics, and in 2023, 41,273 got above 60%.

According to the report, learners also performed better in science, with 35,468 learners getting above 60% for physical sciences in 2023 compared to 34,998 in 2022.

The pass rate for mathematical literacy decreased from 85.7% in 2022 to 82.3% in 2023.

Johan Koekemoer, head of teaching and learning at the Schools Support Center (SOS), says that although the mathematics pass rate was higher than in the past few years according to the education department, around 100,000 of the 260,000 learners who wrote mathematics did not even have 30 % not achieved.

The number of learners who have switched to mathematical literacy has also almost doubled in the last four years.

According to Koekemoer, the channeling of learners towards mathematical literacy obviously contributes to an increased pass rate.

Koekemoer says, however, that it seems that the department also puts the good performances of quintile 4‑ and 5‑schools in the same pool as those of lower quintile schools, which creates the impression that learners across the spectrum are doing better thanks to the input of the education department. although this is not the case.

Learners in schools where no school fees are payable actually still do very poorly in these subjects.

Koekemoer says that only 8% of the 2023 matric group who passed mathematics have access to (studies for) rare professions for which mathematics is the gatekeeper.

He says that in order to improve performance in mathematics, the department’s power must be decentralized and devolved to schools. Schools must be able to decide for themselves which plans and programs are necessary to promote the performance of its learners.

There must also be a strong focus on quality educators.

Selection for education and the demand for education must therefore be increased, said Koekemoer.

Without this, South Africa will be “sucking on the back for a long time when it comes to quality educators”.

Another way to promote performance in important subjects such as mathematics and science, according to Koekemoer, is the privatization of education so that the right skills can be cultivated to prepare learners for the workforce.

Celeste Labuschagne, head of science at the SOS, agrees that maths and science are both important subjects.

She believes that these are subjects that can open many doors for learners, especially for professions such as engineering, architecture, trades and other BSc qualifications.