Matric pass rate a misleading figure, says Equal Education


The 78.2 percent figure will do little to ease HR leaders' concerns about the quality of education.

The 78.2 percent pass rate for the country’s matric class of 2018 will not allay concerns about the quality of South Africa’s education system. Basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday announced that, with 790,843 pupils writing exams, this was the fourth-largest cohort of matric students to register for final exams, while 2018 was also the eighth straight year that the matric pass rate had passed the 70 percent mark.

However, recent years have seen the pass mark reduced to less than 50 percent. In fact, students only need to pass their Home Language and two other subjects with a minimum of 40 percent, and three others at 30 percent, in order to obtain a higher certificate pass.

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Furthermore, non-governmental organisation Equal Education has described the announcement of the annual pass rate as ‘misleading fanfare that, on its own, provides a poor indication of the overall health of the basic education system’. 

In a statement released on Thursday, they explain that the traditional pass rate not only fails to consider learner dropout rates but also ignores the immense contextual disparities between rural and urban provinces. 

“A narrow preoccupation with the results alone can conceal the multitude of challenges that confront learners during their schooling career. It also limits the scope of important conversations that should be had about basic education, not only at this time of the year but consistently,” reads the statement.

When considering the throughput rate – which is defined as the percentage of learners who were in Grade 2 together, and who, 10 years later, went on to pass matric together – EE finds that the pass rate has actually been declining and ranges between 41 percent and 37 percent.

Meanwhile, the provinces that reflected the largest improvements in their 2017 pass rates (Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal), were also the provinces with the biggest decrease in learners who wrote the matric exams. 

EE’s assessment is more consistent with the views of HR leaders, who believe that South Africa’s poor education system is the main reason for the dropout rates at universities, that produce graduates that not adequately prepared for the world on work in the first place. 

"About 90 percent of graduate programmes spend the first six months to a year teaching young employees soft skills. And that is a lot of money that is being spent. When it comes to IT graduates it is worse. Because, even with the highest university qualification, it's almost as if you have to teach them everything from scratch," said Tshidi Khunou, Head of Talent at FNB Wealth and Investments, at a CHRO summit last year.

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