Farm, township and rural schools are producing more pupils eligible to study at university than affluent schools, “an unthinkable trend in the past”, said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday night at Vodaworld in Midrand at the release of the 2018 national senior certificate results.
The class of 2018 obtained a 78.2% national pass rate, up from 75.1% in 2017. The top-performing province is Gauteng, with 87.9%, up from 85.1% in 2017.
Motshekga said 800 800 pupils registered to write the 2018 exams, fewer than the 802 431 who wrote in 2017. KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape registered the highest numbers of full-time and part-time pupils.
She also said that “progressed” pupils — over-aged pupils allowed to repeat grade 11 more than once — continued to do well, with some even obtaining distinctions in key subjects such as mathematics.
Motshekga said the good results achieved by pupils from no-fee schools and those by progressed pupils were the result of interventions and policies the department has been implementing to improve the quality of learning and teaching in schools.
“The effects of our interventions are beginning to show … We have reported that the skills of learners have steadily improved, according to rigorous and widely respected regional and international testing programmes,” the minister said.
The numbers of registered progressed pupils and those who passed had steadily increased, she said. There were 128 634 registered progressed pupils compared with 107 430 in 2017 and 108 742 in 2016. This year, 20 122 passed compared with 18 751 in 2017; of these, 2 676 obtained bachelor passes and 8 685 obtained diploma passes.
Motshekga said progressed pupils attained 2 115 distinctions, including in key subjects such as accounting, mathematics and physical science.
“The significance of these achievements is that … the would-be high school repeaters and dropouts, if they were not progressed, now have a golden opportunity to access either universities or TVET [technical and vocational education and training] colleges,” she said.
There were 84 700 pupils from no-fee schools who obtained bachelor passes, compared with 76 599 from fee-paying schools.
“This implies that, in 2018, quintile one to three schools produced 53% of the bachelor passes (the same as in 2017), while quintile four and five schools produced 47% of bachelor passes (the same as in 2017). The significance of this is that the gap between the bachelor passes produced by quintile one to three schools versus those produced by quintiles four and five schools has significantly and progressively increased from 4% in 2016 to 6% in 2017 and 2018.
“This is significant, as the quintile one to three schools are incrementally producing more bachelor passes than their quintile four and five counterparts — an unthinkable trend in the past,” Motshekga said.
In the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, no-fee schools produced more distinctions than their fee-paying counterparts. Of the 3 856 pupils who wrote the exams, 1 669 achieved bachelor and 861 obtained diploma passes.
The class of 2018 sat for exams in 12 new subjects, including South African sign language as a home language (written by 46 pupils), civil technologies, mechanical technologies and electrical technologies, technical mathematics and technical science. Gauteng and the Free State produced the top 10 performing districts, with both provinces attaining more than 80%.
No district performed below 50%.
“Fellow South Africans, it is unprecedented that the 10 top performing districts in the country are from two provinces. In fact, it is the first time this has happened in the 25-year history of our democratic dispensation … We must congratulate the Free State and Gauteng. This is definitely no mean feat,” said Motshekga.
She said, in accounting, maths and physical science, there were 5 169, 5 828 and 8 135 distinctions respectively.
Meanwhile, in December, Umalusi declared the 2018 matric exams “fair, valid and credible”.
Pupils will be able to access their results at their schools on Friday.