There is no crisis in the quality of education in Gauteng and South Africa, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has said.
"It [the matric result] is worth celebrating, even though we still have challenges ... But there is no crisis," Motshekga said in Johannesburg at the announcement of the Gauteng 2012 matric results on Thursday.
"There is an inter-ministerial [committee] to deal with the [problems]. Today we celebrate."
The number of pupils who passed the National Senior Certificate examination in Gauteng increased from 81.1% in 2011 to 83.9% in 2012.
Motshekga congratulated the students, teachers and parents in the province for having achieved the best results in the country for the second time in three years. "Thank you very much for giving us joy and pride."
Gauteng education minister Barbara Creecy said the province produced the best matric results the province had seen since 1994. "The best results since we introduced universal access to education. And most importantly, the best results ever, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of the quality of the results by schools, by districts and across the province."
Creecy said education should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint. The results showed a significant improvement in the quality of passes achieved in the province. She said the big challenge for her province in the new year was to maintain, sustain and improve on the already improved matric results.
"I don't want to pretend that it's easy because it is not easy."
'Today is a happy day'
"Today is a happy day, but from tomorrow we start again with how now to sustain it [the pass rate]. I do not think the challenges for 2013 are any different ... We have a tried and tested recipe."
Pint-sized Cindy Ndhlovu from Soshanguve Secondary School obtained six distinctions and said the class of 2013 should not wait until June to start preparing for their exams.
She was number two in the province among so-called priority (township) schools.
"Making sacrifices and taking your time to study pays off. The class of 2013 should start to study from early on to make it easier at the end of the year," the 19-year-old said.
Top achiever in Gauteng with eight distinctions, Megan de Vries, from Fourways High School, said setting achievable goals was important for success. "Hard work, commitment and perseverance is [sic] important," she said.
De Vries said balancing time, school work and social life were the most difficult part of being a matriculant, but said the sacrifices paid off.
Both De Vries and Ndhlovu intended becoming accountants.
On Wednesday, Motshekga announced that the matric pass rate in South Africa improved in 2012, with 73.9% of grade 12s passing. This was an improvement on the 70.2% pass rate in 2011.
Of the 623 897 who wrote the NSC exams, over 136–000 pupils achieved results that qualified them to go to university. Another 135 000 got results that would allow them to attend other higher education institutions.
Access to tertiary education
A variety of organisations commented on Thursday on the country's improved matric pass rate.
"The department of higher education and training should be hands-on in ensuring that no deserving students are denied access to tertiary education," National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.
He said universities had a "social responsibility" to help students who were poor or came from rural areas. "Some of these matriculants have not had access to libraries, laboratories and the learning technology that is needed at matric level. They are a reflection of our unequal society and therefore a collective approach is needed to help them."
The South African Teachers' Union said the 2012 matric results should be approached with "caution". Spokesperson Ted Townsend said the higher pass rate seemed "somewhat unrealistic".
Townsend said the matric results did not match the results of the annual national assessments in lower grades.
"The apparent incongruencies and discrepancies between the intervention results and the Grade 12 results cannot be ignored."
Pupils and teachers should thus not "become too comfortable" because of the overall matric pass rate.
The Inkatha Freedom Party raised concerns about pupils who dropped out of school before reaching matric, as well as the poor Mathematics and Science results. "The sad state of affairs remains that the department of education is failing our children," the party's education spokesperson Alfred Mponstshane said.
Rural schools needed more equipment and the country needed teachers competent in maths and science.
The Young Communist League (YCL) said matric results should not be published in the media. "We will continue making this call and urging the department of basic education to consider the high suicide rate and depression when marks are published in the media," spokesperson Khaya Xaba said.
On Wednesday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she was establishing a task team to investigate the consequences of publishing results with names in newspapers.
The YCL said more pupils should be encouraged to attend FET colleges, instead of universities. This would provide much-needed workplace skills and offer increased choices to school leavers.
The Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape was pleased to have achieved a stable pass rate. "We managed to maintain a constant pass rate of 82%," spokesperson for education in the provincial legislature, Cathy Labuschagne, said.
In 2011, the pass rate in the province was 82.9% and in 2012, 82.8%.
The South African Youth Council said the Limpopo matric results were a "beacon of hope". A total of 66.9% of Limpopo matric students passed.
In 2012, there were severe delays in the delivery of textbooks to a number of grades. Matrics were however not affected.
"Limpopo have proved that odds stacked against us as a people have never defined us," the council's president Thulani Tshefuta said.
The South African Communist Party in KwaZulu-Natal said "something better could have been achieved" with the matric results. Provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said the fact that more than 80% of those who passed received less than a 50% average was also worrying.
The SACP in the Eastern Cape said the matric results in its province were a "true reflection" of socio-economic conditions there. "It is a testimony of our historical inequalities and under-development," provincial spokesperson Siyabonga Mdodi said.
The Eastern Cape scored a 61.6% 2012 matric pass rate – the lowest in the country – but up from its 2011 58.1% equivalent.
Meanwhile, the Christian Democratic Party expressed concerns that matric standards were too low. This placed increased pressure on tertiary institutions, and meant they had to provide bridging courses, party leader Theunis Botha said. – Sapa