Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has released the 2017 National Senior Certificate results, revealing a matric pass rate of 75.1%.
However, the official pass rate does not tell the full story – ignoring the large percentage of students who drop out before they write the matric exams.
Equal Education has described the matric pass percentage as a superficial and misleading indicator of public education quality.
“The pass rate reflects only the performance of those learners who managed to stay in school for 12 years and obscures how many dropped out along the way,” said Equal Education.
It said the Basic Education Department has systematically failed to address learner retention. For a broader perspective, you must use a cohort matric pass rate, it said.
Equal Education defines the cohort matric pass rate as the percentage of learners in grade 2 who pass matric 11 years later.
South Africa’s true pass rate
Of the 1,022,853 grade 2 cohort class enrollment, only 629,155 students registered for the matric final exams. This is a dropout rate of 38.49%. When one considers only the 534,484 grade 12 students who actually wrote matric, this dropout rate increases to 47.75%.
The 2017 cohort matric pass rate, which Equal Education has referred to as the true pass rate, is therefore 39.25%.
It should be noted that where Equal Education uses the total number of enrolments across public and private schools in its calculations, the table below uses enrolments in public schools, which is what the DBE matric pass rate is based on.
The Democratic Alliance has offered another analysis of this year’s matric results, comparing the pass rate to the number of learners who enrolled for grade 10 in 2015.
“Last year, 41% of the learners who had enrolled in Grade 10 in 2015 did not enrol for matric,” the DA said. “The number of Grade 10s from 2015 who passed matric 2017 – was only 37.3%. This is cause for serious concern, rather than celebration.”