Matric results a wake-up call for SA

The 2009 matric results indicated there were problems throughout the education system, according to experts in the field.

The 60,7% pass rate—62,5% in 2008—announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday was not surprising at all, University of the Western Cape Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian O’Connell said.

He said there had been no discourse about national education and no increase in teacher consciousness about their role, no ownership and passion on the part of the pupils as well as a a lack of commitment on the part of all role-players, including communities.

He said it appeared that most pupils had very little interest in learning.

If pupils were committed to learning, teachers would have no alternative but to “come to the game” and improve their teaching skills and methods.


Matric results: The facts



Close to half a million Grade 12 pupils received their senior certificate results for 2009, 552 073 up 3,5% from 2008. This excludes the about 60 000 Mpumalanga pupils who are still to receive their results. The below figures exclude that province’s results.

  • Overall pass rate: 2009: 60,6%; 2009: 62,5

  • Exemptions (university): 2009: 109 697 (19,8%); 2008: 107 462 (19,5%)

  • Maths pass (40% and up): 2009: 28%; 2008: 30%

  • Physical Science pass (40% and up): 2009: 50%; 2008: 55%

  • Provincial pass rate:
    • Eastern Cape: 51%

    • Free State: 69,4%

    • Gauteng: 71,8%

    • KwaZulu-Natal: 61,1%

    • Limpopo: 48,9%

    • North West: 67,5%

    • Northern Cape: 61,3%

    • Western Cape: 75,7%


  • A massive 217 355 Grade 12 students failed the exam and will not receive a National Senior Certificate.

    O’Connell said there was a need for a “cultural change” in how the nation understood education.

    Development Bank of Southern Africa education policy analyst Graeme Bloch agreed, saying the results were not surprising.

    He said the results showed there were problems throughout the education system, starting at the foundation level.

    Bloch said however he was pleased that Motshekga had admitted there were problems in the education system.

    Earlier on Thursday, announcing the results at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Motshekga said the matric results showed more needed to be done to improve the support given to schools.

    Acknowledging there was poor teaching in many schools, Motshekga said there was a need to offer more support, especially in science.

    “Management in our schools is often weak and lacks leadership and commitment. Our systems are also often inefficient. In 2010 we shall strengthen our interventions to ensure that the class of 2010 shows a significant improvement.”

    Motshekga said officials in the provincial education departments should support schools in ensuring that textbooks and other teaching materials were provided on time.

    “They must ensure that real teaching and learning are taking place in all our schools from the beginning of the school year.

    “The National Senior Certificate is an important indicator of the quality of our education system, and as a country, we cannot afford to allow our young people to achieve results that are in the main average or below average.”

    Motshekga said the department would develop an plan to strengthen the standard of learning and functionality at schools, which it would present in March.

    Bloch said the plan would have to set out clear priorities and it was essential these be implemented.

    He said the Mpumalanga results debacle showed a real need for more attention to be paid to the provinces. Mpumalanga registered the poorest performance overall with a pass rate of 47,9%—a decline of 3,9 points. Motshekga said that the Mpumalanga education department would be immediately reconstituted.

    “We agreed that the national department will from 2010 assume responsibility for the administration of the National Senior Certificate examination process in Mpumalanga until necessary systems are in place,” said Motshekga.

    Bloch said however that those pupils who had achieved good results should be congratulated.

    Nan Yeld, the Dean of Higher Education Development at the University of Cape Town, said there appeared to be an increased sense of reality regarding the education system, and the results showed what the current system could deliver.

    There was a refreshing willingness on the part of Motshekga, and her predecessor Naledi Pandor, in this respect.

    She welcomed the increase in the number of matriculants obtaining a university entrance qualification.

    While emphasising that this was not a criticism, Yeld said she hoped this would result in more students studying towards degrees in the scarce skills categories, and not just the humanities

    DA blames union
    The Democratic Alliance said it blamed the South African Democratic Teachers Union for the decline in matric results in Gauteng.

    “The DA believes that the impact of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) related disruptions on education in 2009 led to this decline,” said Khume Ramulifho, the DA’s education spokesperson.

    “Some educators did not complete the whole curriculum, and absences from their classrooms exacerbated the problem.”

    Ramulifho said Gauteng had set a target pass rate of 80% for 2009 but the pass rate in fact declined by 4,6% to 71,8%.

    “While the MEC for education admits that there is a need to get the basics of our education right, the truth is that there is still too much talk and not enough action.

    “To date none of the educators involved in illegal strike action have been brought to book,” said Ramulifho.

    Meanwhile, in the Western Cape, Sadtu criticised DA leader Helen Zille, saying she did not invite union officials to the release of the matric results—a claim that was denied by Zille’s office.

    “The decision of the new administration led by premier Helen Zille, who has consistently criticised Sadtu publicly, not to invite Sadtu is regrettable,” said Sadtu.

    “The union is a key role-player in the education sector and it’s clear that the new administration does not value our contribution,” Sadtu said in a statement.

    However, Zille’s spokesperson Robert Macdonald said Sadtu had been invited to the event but declined to attend.

    This was because the union wanted more seats than there were available, said Macdonald.

    The DA earlier on Thursday expressed “dismay” at the drop in the national pass rate.

    “The [DA] notes with dismay the 1,8% decline in nationwide matriculant pass rates, as announced by the basic education ministry earlier today,” said education spokesperson Juanita Kloppers Lourens.

    The 2009 national pass rate for the National Senior Certificate stood at 60,7%, compared to 62,5% in 2008.

    Concern over results
    The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa said on Thursday that while the overall results were pleasing, poor results in “gateway” subjects like maths and English should be flagged for future attention.

    “The officials involved with managing the setting, printing and distribution of question papers must be commended for their hard work,” said Naptosa president Ezrah Ramasehla in a statement.

    Referring to difficulties with maths, science and English, the statement continued: “Naptosa is of the view that a strategy should be put in place to ensure that suitably qualified teachers are appointed in these posts and that adequate support is given to develop teachers of these subjects.”

    Naptosa added that lower performance in rural areas also remained an area of concern.

    The decline in the pass rate was “extremely disappointing”, the Independent Democrats said on Thursday.

    “Given the billions of rand we have invested in education since freedom, the fact that we spend more on education than almost any other developing nation in the world and that a decent education is fundamental for the development of our nation, the matric results for 2009 are pathetic,” said education spokesperson Haniff Hoosen.

    “Taxpayers must be throwing their hands up in the air in dismay because it really seems that the ANC government is incapable of improving the situation.”

    The education system is in a state of crisis, the Inkatha Freedom Party said on Thursday.

    “Whilst the IFP would like to extend its congratulations to those matric students who have passed their Senior Certificate examinations, today’s results must be a wake-up call to government that urgent steps must be taken to address the critical shortcoming within our education system,” said IFP education spokesperson Alfred Mpontshane.

    He said matrics were failing in large numbers because the education system failed them.

    “The machinery required for our children’s education has become inefficient,” said Mpontshane.

    The Pan-Africanist Congress said matric results would not improve until the government accepted its responsibility for oversight.

    “Results will not improve until government accept its responsibility of school oversight which it has dumped to parents who neither have time nor capacity [for] the school challenges,” it said in a statement.

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