“Half a million students did okay, so let’s celebrate that half a million who passed. I think we are making progress and I think we are moving forward. We’re moving forward because we focused on education,” Graeme Bloch, an education analyst, told CNBC Africa.
The matric class of 2013 achieved a pass rate of 78.2 per cent. The improved pass rate makes the 2013 matric class the best since 1994. There was just over 58 per cent pass rate in 1994 and 78.2 per cent last year.
The 78.2 per cent however lacks information on the number of students who didn’t make it to matric. The percentage also doesn’t give information on the number of students eligible to enrol in a tertiary institution.
The Free State scored the highest performance among the country’s provinces, with a pass rate recorded at 87.4 per cent.
“The Free State has two things going for it: one is an MEC who’s hands on, and he’s not letting things rest. We want accountability and we’re getting it, so we’re getting progress. The other thing in the Free State is that the students themselves are hearing us saying that education is a national priority, and they want to do well,” said Bloch.
According to AfriForum, however, the matric pass rate is actually at 38 per cent when taking into consideration all the nuances that come with unpacking the number.
This is when comparing the number of students who enrolled in Grade 1 in 2002 and successfully completed Grade 12 in 2013.
The pass rate has been significantly controversial throughout the years as it doesn’t correspond with rising tertiary and further education institution standards.
“I think that there are serious questions that must be posed about the wisdom of having 30 and 40 per cent as pass rates. I think that’s a legitimate criticism. However there has been progress. We’ve used the 30 and 40 per cent benchmark from 2008, and what we clearly see is a dramatic improvement both in the number of people writing, in the pass rate itself, in the numbers of distinctions that have come through,” said Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of Witwatersrand University.
“You can on the one hand say we’re critical about the pass rate, critical about the benchmarks we’re using, at the same time acknowledging that progress is being registered.”
Habib added that the department of education should be applauded, but that whatever progress made should be addressed in relation to also addressing the education system’s problems.
“Clearly we’ve made some progress, but we’re not at where we should be for a society that wants to build a developmental agenda in the 21st century. What we need to start looking at is how we address those particular problems.”