While the overall pass rate for matriculants had increased, the number of students who sat the mathematics paper and then passed, dropped in 2010, the Department of Basic Education said on Thursday.
Basic Education Director General Bobby Soobrayan told media in Pretoria that the drop in the number of pupils writing mathematics was a concern.
According to the Report on the National Senior Certificate Examinations, 263 034 pupils wrote the mathematics paper in 2010, which was 38 620 fewer than in 2009 — or a 14% drop.
Some 300 829 wrote the mathematics paper in 2008.
Soobrayan said that while the overall pass rate of those achieving 30% or more had increased slightly to 47,4%, it was disappointing that fewer pupils had taken the subject.
The number of candidates who achieved a pass rate of 40% and above — the pass rate required to be considered for university entrance — dropped from 90 699 candidates in 2009 to 81 374 candidates in 2010 — or a fall of 10,2%.
Only 30,9% of candidates achieved a mark above 40%.
The pass rates were similar for physical science, with 47,8% achieving a mark above 30% and 29,7 achieving over 40%.
Pupils generally did well in their home language subject, with those sitting the English exam showing a 92 8% pass rate.
Pass rates for other home languages hovered around 98 and 99%.
The greatest number of pupils writing a home language paper were Zulu speakers at 122 694 candidates, followed English speakers at 94 929 and 70 377 Xhosa speaking pupils.
English dominated with 449 080 candidates taking English as a second language, followed by Afrikaans at 77 449 candidates, and Zulu with 11 094 candidates.
The respective pass rates achieved were 71,3%, 76,7% and 98,7%.
The overall matric pass rate for 2010 stood at 67,8%, up from 60,7% in 2009.
It was 62,5% in 2008 and 65,2% in 2007. — Sapa