DA questions ‘culling of learners to inflate matric pass rate’

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Friday said the “fixation on the pass rate can mask the actual performance of the education system”‚ and called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga “to investigate what is behind the large drop-out rate without delay”.

“Close analysis of the 2016 matric results reveals a very high ‘drop-out rate’‚ leading to speculation that some learners may have been ‘culled’ to inflate the matric pass rate‚” the party’s Gavin Davis said.

“According to the Department of Basic Education’s figures‚ 1 100 877 learners enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014‚ but only 610 178 enrolled for Grade 12 in 2016. This means that 44‚6% of learners either dropped out of the system altogether or remain stuck in Grade 10 and 11.”

The “drop-out rate”‚ Davis said‚ was highest in the Northern Cape (54.4%)‚ North West (52.7%) and the Free State (51.6%).

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Davis focused on the Free State‚ which Motshekga announced as the top-achieving province with a pass rate of 88.2%‚ saying that‚ in 2014‚ there were 55 293 learners enrolled in Grade 10‚ but only 26 786 of those actually wrote matric in 2016.

“If we look at the number of learners in the Free State who obtained a matric pass (23 629) and divide them by the number of learners who enrolled in Grade 10 in 2014‚ we can calculate a ‘real pass rate’ of 42.7%‚” he said.

He compared this with the DA-run Western Cape‚ which had 75 791 learners enrolled in Grade 10 in 2014‚ and 50 869 of those learners wrote matric in 2016 with 43 716 passing.

“Using the same method as for the Free State above‚ we can calculate a ‘real pass rate’ for the Western Cape of 57.7%‚” Davis said.

“In other words‚ the Free State’s claim to be the best performing province – with a pass rate of 88.2% compared with the Western Cape’s 86.0% – is misleading.”

Davis said he has written to Motshekga‚ specifically asking whether the high drop-out rate “is the result of learners being ‘culled’ by schools under pressure from districts and provincial education departments”.