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Matric pass rate drops

By Staff Writer

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday 5 January that the matric pass rate for 2015 was 70.7%, which is down from 75.8% in 2014. However, this year saw an increased number in progressed students. According to Motshekga, without the progressed learners, the pass rate would have been 74.1%. (For more in progressed learners scroll down)

“The Class of 2015 has recorded the highest enrolment of Grade 12 learners in the history of the basic education system in South Africa.  The total number of candidates who registered for the November 2015 NSC examinations was 799 306; written by 667 925 full time candidates and 131 381 part time candidates.  This is 110 thousand candidates more than those enrolled for the 2014 NSC examinations,” said Motshekga.

Despite the increase in the number of matriculants who registered for the NSC exam, and with more than 70% of those who sat the exam obtaining a pass, a recent report stated that less than four out of every ten matriculants are going to find jobs. This could increase the current official unemployment rate of 25.5%.

The level of the examinations

One of the apparent causes for the drop in the pass rate for 2015 was the increased difficulty of the exam papers. The class of 2015 was only the second to write an exam that is aligned with the department’s National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).

“CAPS is a high knowledge curriculum. It places a premium on cognitive demands from learners. CAPS emphasises subject content and assessment as the centrepiece of curriculum implementation,” explained Motshekga.

Furthermore, Motshekga elaborated: “From 2014, examiners progressively increased the level of cognitive demands in setting the NSC examination question papers.  This is prescribed in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement.  The learners, teachers, markers, chief makers, internal moderators, subject analysts, and curriculum specialists, observed that this year's question papers were different from those of the previous years.  ‎We have taken a conscious decision to raise the standard and to improve the quality of our education, consistent with the objectives of the CAPS curriculum.”

Progressed learners

An area that Motshekga highlighted in her speech was the increased number of progressed learners. These are students who have failed grade 11 twice and were progressed to matric as you are unable to repeat a year more than once.

“An analysis of the raw data on progressed learners paints an extremely interesting picture, in particular this year.  For the Class of 2015, we had 65 671 progressed learners, which was 9.8% of the total number of full-time candidates registered for the 201 NSC examinations,” revealed Motshekga.

However, these students were given extra support “to sit for Grade 12 NSC examinations, or allow them to modularise their examinations – meaning that they write part of the examinations in November 2015, and the rest in June 2016,” explained Motshekga.

The results for these students are as follows:

  • 22 060 passed the National Senior Certificate (NSC) 2015 examinations, which is 37.6% of progressed learners.
  • 3 297 of these learners obtained Bachelor passes.
  • 8 473 obtained Diploma passes.
  • 10 264 obtained Higher Certificate passes.
  • 1 081 distinctions were achieved, including 40 in Mathematics, 30 in Physical Science and 31 in Accounting, the subjects deemed to be more difficult.

(Source: Minister Motshekga’s address)

According to Motshekga, the progressed learners “did not contribute substantively in the drop of the NSC pass overall rate.”

Despite the work that has been done in assisting the progressed learners, Motshekga noted that the department is unable to give a full picture of what has been learnt during the process.

However, she pointed out that “amongst others, is a plan to strengthen our psycho-social services, differentiated teaching and curriculum pathways, remedial work, screening and testing for both health, academic and psychological needs. We will soon give more details on our work in these areas.  In 2016, having taken into account the lessons learnt in the implementation of the policy on progressed learners, we have revised the policy and came up with stringent measures that must be met before learners can be progressed within the FET (further education and training) Band.”

It is not clear how much the extra assistance offered to these students has and will cost the Department of Basic Education.
In addition to the increase of progressed students, there was also an increase in special needs students who wrote the 2015 NSC exams.

The results

The provincial results for the 2015 matric exams were as follows (including progressed learners):

  • KwaZulu Natal with 61.6%;
  • Eastern Cape with 62.2%;
  • Limpopo with 71.7%;
  • Northern Cape 77.2%;
  • Mpumalanga with 82.1%;
  • North West with 84.0%;
  • Gauteng with 85.9%;
  • Free State with 87.7%; and
  • Western Cape at 88.0%.


From the above, the pass rate of 70.7% was determined. However, Motshekga highlighted that the three most rural provinces (KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape), which also accounted for the three lowest provincial pass rates, also accounted for 53.6% of all 2015 registered NSC candidates.

The results indicate that 49.8% of the total candidates for KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape failed.

“Clearly, we must pay particular attention to KZN, Limpopo and Eastern Cape if we want to improve the overall NSC national picture.  If we don’t do this, our basic education outputs and outcomes may not improve to the extent necessary,” stated Motshekga.

Of the candidates who achieved an NSC pass, 243 108 were girls and 212 717 were boys. Of the students who obtained a Bachelor pass, 90 027 were girls while 76 236 were boys.

A second chance

If you did not pass your matric exams the first time round, you may still have the opportunity to attain an NSC. The department offers a Second Chance Matric Programme, which intends “to provide support to learners who have not been able to meet the requirements of the National Senior Certificate by increasing learner retention.”

The learners who qualify for the programme are those who qualify for Supplementary Exams for a maximum of two subjects, “progressed learners who pursue multiple opportunities to complete the NSC, and learners who failed to meet the requirements of the NSC in 2015,” said Motshekga.

Further details of this programme are still to be released.

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