Equal Education (EE) congratulates learners, teachers, principals, parents, provincial education departments and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on achieving a national Matric pass rate of 78,2%. This is an improvement of 4,3% from 2012.
2013 also saw an increase in the number and percentage of learners achieving Bachelors, Maths and Physical Science passes, and a decrease in the number of schools achieving a pass rate of less than 60%. These are all important and significant achievements.
However, the drop-out rate continues to be excessively high, meaning that almost half of all learners do not reach Matric. Free State and the North West, this year’s “top performers” had the worst drop-out rates. Outcomes remain closely tied to wealth, with richer schools, on average, far outperforming poorer schools.
Performance in the Provinces (when considering the drop-out rate)
Free State (87,4%) and North West (87,2%) had the highest Matric pass rates in 2013, followed by Gauteng (87%) and the Western Cape (85,1%), traditionally the top performing provinces. The Eastern Cape (64,9%) and Limpopo (71,8%) were again at the bottom.
However, only considering the pass rate can give a misleading picture of the state of education in these provinces and in the country as a whole.
In 2002 there were 1 261 827 learners enrolled in public schools for Grade 1 (DOE, Education Statistics in SA at a Glance, 2002, p.8). In 2011 there were 1 055 790 learners in Grade 10 (DBE, School Realities Report 2011, p.3). 576 490 learners enrolled for Matric in 2013. This means that 479 300 were lost between Grades 10 and 12, representing a 45% drop-out rate.
Using these same figures, North West and the Free State had the highest provincial drop-out rates. 56% of learners in the North West and 53% in the Free State dropped out between Grades 10 and 12. It would appear that in these provinces, high Matric pass rates are being pursued at the expense of learner retention. See this article.
The Western Cape and Kwa Zulu Natal had the lowest drop-out rates in the country, 33% and 40% respectively. This is particularly impressive in the case of Kwa Zulu Natal, a predominantly rural and poor province. In 2011 67,1% of children in the province lived in households below the poverty line. (SA Child Gauge 2013, p.90)
Quality and Inequality
In total, there were 1 407 schools with a pass rate below 60%, the standard used by the DBE to identify “underperforming schools”. 1 209 of these schools, or 86%, are in Quintile 1, 2 and 3. These are the poorest and most under-resourced schools in the country. In comparison, only 36 schools in Quintile 5 had a pass rate below 60%.
631 Quintile 1 schools had a pass rate of between 80% and 100%, compared to 620 Quintile 5 schools. However, the number of schools in Quintile 1 (1 659) is much larger than the number of schools in Quintile 5 (740). In reality, 38% of Quintile 1 schools compared to 83,79% of Quintile 5 schools had a pass rate of between 80% and 100%.
The generally low quality of education in poorer schools is a result of inadequate infrastructure and resources, low levels of teacher content knowledge and poor curriculum coverage, overcrowding and teacher shortages, and ineffective school management. It is also a result of low levels of support from district officials and accountability within these schools.
The Eastern Cape
Lastly, we remain concerned with the state of education in the Eastern Cape. At 64, 9%, the Eastern Cape’s pass rate is well below the national average of 78,2%. Moreover, 44,7% of schools in the province had a pass rate below 60%. This means that almost half of Eastern Cape high schools are “underperforming schools”, despite the fact that the province is under national administration in terms of Section 100 (1) (b) of the Constitution.
Efforts to increase the Matric pass rate should not be done at the expense of learner retention. Rather, targeted interventions should be implemented to improve teacher content knowledge and curriculum coverage, starting at the foundation phase, provide better school infrastructure and more resources like textbooks to poor schools. Specific interventions should be targeted at “underperforming” schools and districts
For further comment contact:
Yoliswa Dwane (Chairperson): 076 706 2338 or 021 3987 0022/3 (office)
Brad Brockman (General Secretary): 072 267 8489
Hopolang Selebalo (Parliamentary Liaison Officer): 074 261 1672