Ma­tric pass rate ‘mi­rage’


The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Kirsten Pear­son and Steve Kret­z­mann

Through­put rate from Grade 1 to pass­ing Grade 12 is only 37.6%.

As schools re-opened last week, trends for the past three years re­veal about 40% of pupils who en­tered Grade 11 last year have not en­rolled for Grade 12 this year.

Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga an­nounced on 7 Jan­uary a 81.3% na­tional pass rate for the 2019 Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate (NSC) ex­ams, up from 78.2% the pre­vi­ous year.

But Democratic Al­liance (DA) ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Nomsa March­esi said that tak­ing into ac­count the through­put rate – the num­ber of pupils who started Grade 1 in 2008 against how many passed the NSC last year – only 37.6% wrote and passed at the end of Grade 12.

Cal­cu­lat­ing the NSC pass rate against pupil through­put, which the DA calls the “real” pass rate, changes the provin­cial rank­ings and moves the DA-run West­ern Cape up from fourth spot to sec­ond with a 50.7% pass rate, while Gaut­eng takes the lead at 58.8%. The Free State, which had the high­est pass rate of 88.4%, drops to 42.8% and the fourth spot.

In the Free State, 13 026 pupils left the school sys­tem in the decade be­tween Grade 2 and Grade 11. But 14 183 pupils left in just one year, be­tween Grade 11 and 12. Na­tion­ally, 323 374 pupils did not move through from Grade 11.

Looked at this way, Gaut­eng and West­ern Cape are still the best per­form­ing prov­inces, al­though the re­sults are grim across the board. These prov­inces have largely ur­ban pop­u­la­tions, where schools are bet­ter equipped than in ru­ral ar­eas. Gaut­eng and West­ern Cape also have lower per­cent­ages of house­holds liv­ing in poverty. Lim­popo is in third place in this anal­y­sis. This is sur­pris­ing be­cause of its high house­hold poverty rate (55.4%)

Free State is fourth. Eastern Cape and North­ern Cape fare worst in terms of pupils stay­ing the course and ma­tric­u­lat­ing af­ter 12 years of school­ing.

Mary Met­calfe, for­mer Gaut­eng MEC for ed­u­ca­tion, weighed in on Twit­ter with an­other way of look­ing at the data. She tweeted a graph that the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion in­cluded in its 2019 NSC ex­am­i­na­tion re­port.

The Grade 12 at­tain­ment graph by Statis­tics SA based on house­hold sur­vey data shows the per­cent­age of youths per prov­ince who com­pleted ma­tric. Gaut­eng has the high­est per­cent­age aged 20 to 28 who fin­ished Grade 12. The Eastern Cape fares worst. This is also skewed by mi­gra­tion be­tween prov­inces. And even Gaut­eng’s per­cent­age of 60 to 65% of youths aged 28 or younger with ma­tric is dis­mal.

West­ern Cape ed­u­ca­tion MEC Deb­bie Schafer at­trib­uted the high drop-off rate to “culling” pupils be­tween Grades 10 and 12 to im­prove the ma­tric pass rate. Schafer said “culling” in­volved “los­ing weak pupils along the way so that schools and prov­inces can achieve a higher pass rate”.

“When 20% or more of a prov­ince’s en­tered can­di­dates for the ma­tric year do not write their exam, it is dif­fi­cult to ex­plain this away with­out con­sid­er­ing that some may have been kept back on pur­pose. We have heard re­ports of this,” said Schafer.

A Gaut­eng teacher with 12 years ex­pe­ri­ence in state schools and five years in the pri­vate school sys­tem, dis­puted that culling takes place on such a large scale, or that hold­ing back poorly per­form­ing pupils was bad.

The teacher, who can­not be named, said culling, in which pupils were asked to leave prior to Grade 12 as they were un­likely to pass, hap­pened at pri­vate schools that wanted to main­tain their 100% pass rate. But it was not wide­spread enough to ac­count for a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of the large drop-off be­tween Grade 11 and Grade 12.

Other fac­tors, such as fam­ily dis­as­ters, meant a pupil might leave school to care for a fam­ily mem­ber or con­trib­ute to in­come. Also, many pupils, on reach­ing Grade 10, left to pur­sue Grade 12 equiv­a­lent (tech­ni­cal) qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Some left school be­fore Grade 12 as they had de­vel­oped busi­nesses. Many pupils who were strug­gling were per­suaded to re­peat Grade 11. This, she said, was in their best in­ter­ests.

Martin Gustafs­son from the ReSEP Re­search Group at Stel­len­bosch University said the drop-off be­tween Grade 10 and Grade 12 was in­flated by very high lev­els of grade rep­e­ti­tion and did not rep­re­sent ac­tual drop-off lev­els. “But there is still mas­sive drop­ping out in the sense that 45% of youths do not ob­tain a NSC, and only an­other 3% ob­tain an NSC equiv­a­lent, with­out also hav­ing the NSC.”

He said there were no prop­erly cal­cu­lated dropout rates due to in­suf­fi­cient data.

Re­pub­lished by GroundUp

There is still mas­sive drop­ping out

Pic­ture: Ashraf Hen­dricks

NEW SLANT. Prop­erly an­a­lysed, the ris­ing ma­tric re­sults of­fer no cause for cel­e­bra­tion.

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