Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announces the 2018 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results at Vodaworld in Midrand. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

The matric class of 2018 has achieved an impressive 78.2% pass rate, beating 75.1% of 2017.

An elated Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the results in Midrand, Johannesburg, on Thursday evening.

She said the improved passes were a clear indication that the quality of public education in the country was improving. Significantly, no province achieved a pass rate below 60%.

“One of the reasons we are excited about the general upward trend in our Grade 12 results, is that we know this is a manifestation of improvements occurring at all levels of the schooling system,” Motshekga said.

But more still needed to be done, she said. “We will be the first to concede that despite the notable stability of and improvements in the system, we are yet to cross our own Rubicon.  

“We must agree that much has been achieved, but much more needs to be done in the areas of efficiency and quality,” said Motshekga.

A total of 624 733 matrics wrote as full-time candidates in 2018. This was a decline from the over 629 000 that wrote in 2017. The 78.2% pass rate meant 400 761 candidates passed matric.

The national pass rate includes 20 122 progressed matrics who managed to complete school. Some  2 676 of them achieved bachelor passes.
A total of 33 412 progressed learners, who were promoted despite failing Grade 11, wrote.

Gauteng claimed the number one position in the 2018 matric results, achieving a 87.9% matric pass rate. They were followed closely by the Free State, which moved to second, achieving 87.5%. 

With a 81.5% pass rate, the Western Cape took third position - while the North West was fourth with 81.1%. 

Mpumalanga attained a 79% pass rate, claiming fifth spot, while KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) achieved 76.2%, claiming sixth position. 

At seventh was the Northern Cape with 73.3%, while the Eastern Cape scored 70.6%, achieving the biggest improvement of 5.6%. Limpopo came last with 69.4%, but still improved from their 67.4% pass rate in 2017.

Addressing progressed matrics, Motshekga said Gauteng had the highest number of progressed matrics passing, with 70.3%, while the Western Cape saw the lowest with just over 33.6%.

The Free State saw 65.2% progressed matrics passing, Mpumalanga 64.7%,KZN 63.4%, North West 56.9%, the Eastern Cape 56.5% and the Northern Cape’s 40.2%. Limpopo’s figures were not immediately issued.

Motshekga also announced an impressive increase of matriculants achieving passes that allow them to enrol for bachelor studies at varsities. These shot up by 33.6%, jumping to 172 043 from 153 610 of 2017.

Allan Thompson, deputy president of the National Teachers Union, told The Star that the increased pass rate was expected.

“We were not expecting the pass rate to decline because teachers are quite seasoned now on this curriculum. This (class of 2018) is the fifth cohort to write Caps.

“Teachers now have the required confidence. They now have previous question papers,” Thompson said.

Also, there were no strikes in basic education last year. “All the teaching time was utilised to the best ability of teachers,” Thompson said.

He added that the announcement that tertiary education was now free appeared to be inspiring learners to attain passes that allow them to enrol at varsities.

“There’s a lot of pressure for them to perform so that they can be admitted into universities. That thing is having a good impact. It puts children under pressure to get exemptions,” said Thompson.

“We expected the pass rate to increase because we have many learners who were working around the clock just so they could pass and get matric exemption.”

But questions needed to be asked about roughly 500 000 learners that started Grade 1 in 2006 and did not sit for their exams in 2018, said Thompson.

“We can’t be excited about 300 000 learners who pass matric without looking into how many enrolled in 2006. They were almost 1.1 million.

“Those who wrote matric were over 600 000. This means there are thousands of people who fall by the wayside,” he said.

But Mathanzima Mweli, director general for the department, denied that thousands are being lost to basic education. “They repeat for many years. Some finish well after 15 years,” said Mweli. 

“Our problem is, in the main, failure and repetition rate. It doesn't mean that we've lost them (or that) they've dropped out.”

Matakanye Matakanye, general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, said the increase was expected because stakeholders worked harmoniously last year.

But a truly impressive national pass rate would be that which sees learners from schools in rural areas and townships getting more exemptions.

“There's a question of resources. The resources are provided differently to schools. The no-fee schools should also enjoy quality resources,” Matakanye told The Star.

“Particularly if we say the pass rate is impressive, it must be impressive in the lower quintile schools.

“In those schools with resources, there's quality already (in terms of passes). The children get exemptions and complete their studies in varsity on record time.

“We'd be really happy when the majority of lower quintile schools learners get exemptions and go do well in university. That's when we'd say the system is maturing,” added Matakanye.

The Star