"We hereby approve the release of the results of the national senior certificate examinations administered by the department of basic education," Mabizela said on Friday.
He said the same approval was issued for the exams administered by the Independent Examinations Board (IEB). "We are satisfied that the examinations were fair, valid and credible."
Umalusi – the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training – approved the exams after various quality control measures, including moderating and approving question papers, verifying internal assessments, monitoring the conduct during exams, and monitoring and verifying the marking and final results.
In certain cases a process of standardisation was applied, whereby marks would be adjusted to "mitigate fluctuations in learner performance that are a result of factors within the examination processes themselves rather than the knowledge, aptitude or abilities of learners".
Nevertheless, Mabizela said that any problems found were "not systemic and were effectively and adequately dealt with".
He noted that there had been a problem in Durban when a student was found with a leaked economics paper. However the student was determined to be the only person in possession of it. "This has been investigated and appropriate action will be taken against the implicated parties."
Exams conducted for qualifications available through Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and Adult Basic Education and Training (Abet) were also approved – with the exception of N3 Industrial Electronics. "The standardisation of Industrial Electronics N3 is pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged serious irregularities."
Mabizela expressed some concern with the high drop-out rates of students enrolled for NC(V) levels two to four and for the General Education and Training Certificate Abet level four.
He also said poor matric results in subjects like Mathematics had to be improved.
Discussions about low requirements for obtaining an NSC certificate had to be qualified by the fact that only 0.09% of the students obtained a NSC on the basis of minimum requirements, said Mabizela.
He said there needed to be a balancing act in understanding the current state of education in South Africa. "Let us resist the temptation of joining the chorus of the cynics, the pessimists and the doom-sayers who would have us believe that ours is a lost cause – they would have us believe that there was something good and positive for a black child in Bantu Education."
However, he also said that on the other hand, the public should not be seduced into believing that the education system was functioning well.
"We must acknowledge that we have an education system that still fails dismally to free the full potential of the majority of our young people."
He said large numbers of young people dropped out of school before matric. "Our education system is [a] work-in-progress and we must continue to work hard on it." – Sapa