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Matric Results 2009 – EE Press Release

AThe 2009 matric results confirm that there is a deep crisis in South African education. The drop in the pass rate continues a trend:

2003 73.3%
2004 70.7%
2005 68.3%
2006 66.5%
2007 65.2%
2008 62.7%



A few comments on pass-rates generally:

  • To pass matric candidates require 3 subjects at 30% and 3 subjects at 40%. This low threshold for passing underscores the poor results of 2009.
  • Pass-rates must be analysed carefully. A reduction in the drop-out rate from grade 10, and a consequent rise in the number of matriculants can result in a decline in the pass-rate. Similarly, if all emphasis is on the pass-rate, schools and education departments can be pressured into excluding candidates uncertain of passing, thereby increasing the drop-out rate. Another way that the pass-rate can be artificially raised is by increasing the number of candidates who write Maths Literacy rather than Mathematics. This must be carefully monitored over the next few years. We join the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) in expressing concern at the high drop-out rate from grade 10. Over 40% of learners never reach matric, and are not even part of the poor examination results.
  • Pass rates generally give us a global picture of the country or a province, but we need to know more. South Africa is the country with the greatest inequality of wealth and income in the world. It is therefore vital to analyse educational progress in terms of how different sections of our society are doing. For example, EE congratulates KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) for being the only province to improve its pass-rate, up by 3.5% to 61.1%. But did this improvement occur at the top or the bottom? In 2008, in KZN, 99.5% of white students passed, with 73.9% attaining adequate grades for university entrance, whereas only 53% of black African students passed, with 13% at university entrance level. We need to break the 2009 results down by municipal area, and by former departmental classification of the schools, amongst other indicators. EE will do some of this analysis in the coming months. For a fuller assessment of educational inequality published by Equal Education this week click here.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga is correct in her statement that “We have not yet turned the corner in education”. In general, her frank and self-critical assessment of the matric results is to be welcomed. 2010 will be another difficult year due partly to the disruption to education expected by the FIFA World Cup.

Over the next few days, weeks and months the question for the country is not how to increase the pass-rate in 2010 by 2%, but rather how to increase the pass-rate by 10% over 10 years and by 20% over 20 years.

In this regard EE says as follows:

  • Distribution of resources: As stated yesterday by President Zuma: “The achievement of parity in the distribution of resources is paramount to quality learning and teaching. We still have schools that have to work with very little resources, while others have more than enough.” EE is in favour of maintaining well-performing public schools, and bringing the rest up to the same level. A vital resource, proven to improve performance by between 10% and 25%, is a school library. During 2010 EE will be campaigning for a National Policy on School Libraries. For more click here.
  • Teachers: Included in our understanding of “resources” are well-trained, well-supported, well-remunerated teachers. No transformation of South African education can take place without dedicated, hard-working, motivated and well-educated teachers. We must hold teachers accountable to high standards, but at the same time we must improve their working conditions, which in township and rural schools are often very difficult with large classes, inadequate staff-rooms, and too little in-service training. At the same time we must look for innovative ways to expand the teaching profession. Models such as Teach South Africa, which allow top university graduates without teaching qualifications to serve two years of community service teaching in poor schools should be supported strongly by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
  • Standards and Assessment: Minister Motshekga stated that examination standards will be maintained because “through maintaining the standards of our examinations we are able to assess the shortcomings in the quality of learning and teaching”. This is to be welcomed. By the same token we must continue to assess at other levels, and publish these assessments. For example, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) conducts important numeracy and literacy assessments at certain primary school grade levels every two years. The 2003 grade 6 assessment, showed that only 1 in 1000 learners in African township schools was adequately numerate, compared to over 62% in former model-C schools. This same group went on to be the matrics of 2009, and their poor numeracy proved an accurate predictor: In the Western Cape the maths pass rate also dropped, from 65.2 percent in 2008 to 64.9 percent. The physical science pass rate plummeted from 71.2 percent in 2008 to 52.9 percent in 2009. It is therefore of deep concern that the WCED now seems unwilling to release the disaggregated results from the most recent grade 6 literacy and numeracy assessment done in 2007; despite repeated requests, only the province-wide totals have been released.
  • Community Mobilisation and Organisation: Minister Motshekga has repeatedly made progressive calls for community involvement in education. In announcing the results she said: “We will continue to mobilise our communities to involve themselves in the education of our children throughout the year. As President Zuma has said "Education is a societal issue".” President Zuma echoed this yesterday when he said: “I call on parents and communities to truly place education at the forefront of our national agenda.” In 2010 Equal Education will be at the forefront of building this people’s movement for education. In our campaigns, in our media, in our public education and in our youth and community organising we will prove that ordinary people can bring change to South Africa’s education system and ensure that we can turn the corner. Our first major campaign of 2010 is the Campaign for School Libraries. For more on this campaign contact Lukhanyo Mangona (0825958600) or Adam Sack (0837941111).


Equal Education congratulates its members and all matriculants who were successful in the 2009 examinations. We congratulate all teachers, markers, officials and parents who played their part in the 2009 matric examinations. Our members who failed will be assisted to prepare for the supplementary examinations in March 2010. Learners who worked with dedication improved their chances of avoiding failure and achieving success. But as a movement we know that it is the system which has once again failed the learners. Only the transformation of education in the direction of quality and equality for all will lead to a sustained improvement in matric results.

For more comment on the 2009 Matric Results contact:
Lukhanyo Mangona (0825958600)
Doron Isaacs (0828502111)

Carla GoldsteinMatric Results 2009 – EE Press Release