Matric pass rate is misleading – early school leaving rate is cause for concern

AfriForum congratulates all learners who passed matric in 2023 and thanks the teachers who made their success possible with dedication and hard work, despite many challenges in the education sector.

The Department of Basic Education likes to sing praises about the annual high matric pass rate. This year is no exception, but according to Nicolene Müller, AfriForum’s Project Coordinator for Education, AfriForum is particularly concerned about the group of learners who never even participated in the matric examination.

According to the statistics of the Department of Basic Education’s report, Education statistics in South Africa 2012, 1 208 973 pupils found themselves in grade 1 of so-called ordinary schools in 2011. Of these, 1 162 824 learners were in public schools and 46 149 in independent schools.

By contrast,  715 000 full-time and 182 000 part-time matriculants wrote the matric exams in 2023, of whom 15 186 were in independent schools.

It is extremely worrying that so many of the pupils have disappeared from the system. This is a trend that can be seen annually. In the first place, it proves that the lowering of pass requirements does not convince learners to stay in school right up to matric. Secondly, even with matric, a large number of young people are not truly employable, due to the poor quality of education they received and the low standards that are set for learners to succeed. Without a matric certificate, it will be even more difficult for them to create a promising future for themselves and contribute to the national economy.

“It is essential that the Department of Basic Education should accept responsibility and show leadership in addressing problems such as a lack of mother-language education, ineffective curriculum options, paralysing actions by some teachers’ unions, inadequate training opportunities for teachers, a lack of infrastructure, questionable education bills such as the BELA Bill, the dysfunctionality of schools and discipline problems,” declares Müller.

“Until this happens, the annual celebration of a so-called improving matric pass rates is misleading and a large group of young South Africans are being let down.”

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