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Free State matriculants lead way

The Free State has pulled off a surprise coup, achieving the highest matric pass rate nationally.

And, overall, the matric class of 2016 has surpassed the success rate of the previous year.

Nationally, 72.5% of 2016’s matrics passed, up almost two percentage points on 2015, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said when announcing the results yesterday.

Free State achieved an 88.2% pass rate as against 81.6% in 2015.

Western Cape has traditionally held the top spot, followed by Gauteng, but this year they had to settle for second and third place respectively.

The celebrations have been tempered by warnings by education specialists that the quality of a matric pass left much to be desired.

In Western Cape, 85.9% of those who wrote passed compared with 84.7% in 2015.

Gauteng scored 85.1%, up from 84.2% in 2015.

Among the remaining provinces:

  • North West 82.5% (up from 81.5%);
  • Northern Cape 78.7% (69.4%);
  • Mpumalanga 77.1% (78.6%);
  • KwaZulu-Natal 66.4% (60.7%);
  • Limpopo 62.5% (65.9%), and;
  • Eastern Cape 59.3% (56.8%).

Despite the improvement, some analysts have raised concerns about the quality of the pass rate, saying there was a need for an increase in distinctions.

But “it is a matter of grave concern”, said the president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, Basil Manuel, that about 74% of pupils had been unable to meet “higher cognitive demands”.

The number of pupils who passed science and maths increased, as did the number of pupils of lesser-resourced schools who achieved a university-entrance pass.

About 26% of matriculants passed with the basic requirement to enter university – one percentage point up on last year.

The National Teachers’ Union’s deputy president, Allan Thompson, said although it was notable that the number of university-entrance passes had increased, there was room for improvement.

The union was particularly happy about improvements in rural provinces such as Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

But Thompson said he was worried that there were schools with pass rates of less than 50% – and some at which not a single pupil could pass matric.

“We are making a call to the department that we must go straight to those schools that performed badly and the districts . because we have still got districts that got below 50% ,” he said.

The general secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, Mugwena Maluleke, described the improvement in the number of bachelor passes as “insignificant”.

Ruksana Osman, of the University of the Witwatersrand, said the improved pass rate was modest.

“An interesting surprise was the Free State. We need to learn from them about what they’ve done.”

Osman said that the poor performance in subjects such as maths, science and accounting was worrying.

The minimum requirement to obtain the National Senior Certificate is 40% in three subjects, one of them a home language, and to achieve 30% in three other subjects.

Overall, maths passes grew but distinctions in the subject remained low, though increasing to 8070 from 7791 in 2015.

Motshekga said the 22 top-performing pupils were ambassadors for the public schooling system. They were the “bright sparks” of public schooling.

“You have set the bar higher, you have sent a profound message to all other children in the country that personal circumstances must not condemn anyone to perpetual poverty and underachievement.

“Some of the learners who are top learners are kids who come from extreme poverty, who are, against all odds, pushing themselves to the limit,” she said.