Defend Truth


Stop shouting that the ‘real’ pass rate is less than 50%


Mduduzi Mbiza is a Pretoria-born entrepreneur, researcher, consultant and speaker

What we should rather be asking the education department to do is to have a system to track the learners who drop out or stay behind.

Over the years there’s been an outcry about the so-called ‘real’ matric pass rate. In 2017 the Democratic Alliance complained that the department of education may be culling learners ahead.

Because the pass rate is expressed as a percentage of the learners who wrote, it doesn’t take into consideration the learners who didn’t make it to matric,” the DA said.

Just after the announcement of the 2018 matric results, Stellenbosch University socio-economic researcher Nic Spaull tweeted: “Until the Minister starts reporting and emphasising the 400,000 kids that drop out of school (no proof of their educ status whatsoever, almost certainly unemployed, and they don’t go to FET, btw) I’ll keep making these graphs…”

Spaull posted a graph showing the number of learners who started school in 2007 in relation to those who wrote matric in 2018.

The Democratic Alliance voiced their complaint again, saying that the ‘real’ pass rate for the 2018 class is 37.6%, not 78.2%.

These Grade 10s should be celebrating with other matriculants, but more than half didn’t write matric in the expected time frame,” the DA’s shadow minister of basic education, Nomsa Marchesi, said.

In what world do we think we live? Just because the system says learners have to take 12 years to complete schooling doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way.

In 2018, Statistics South Africa released their 2017 General Household Survey (GHS), conducted from January to December 2017. It measured, on a regular basis, the performance of programmes as well as the quality of service delivery in a number of key service sectors. The GHS covers six broad areas and among those areas is education.

From that report, it was shown that family commitments are among the things keeping young people out of school. About 18.5% of young girls are not attending school due to family commitments, while only 0.4% of young boys suffer for the same reason. In addition, 22.9% of young girls don’t have money to attend school and this only affects about 20.6% of young boys.

Many of our young girls are out of school due to reasons that are beyond their ability and only a mere 2.9% of these young girls regard education as useless compared to 9.1% of young boys.

My main reason for this column is to argue what people suggest as the ‘real’ pass rate. It is pointless to use the number of learners who began Grade 1 to determine and justify that the number of learners who wrote Grade 12.

I compiled the graph below to illustrate that in every grade there’s always going to be a drop.

However, the pattern seems to change in Grade 10 where there’s an increase in admissions.

What we can ask from the department is to have a system to track the learners who drop out or stay behind. What we should stop doing is shouting that the ‘real’ pass rate is less than 50% just because we see it fit to count the cohort of learners who didn’t make it through from Grade 1 among the cohort of those who made it through in Grade 12.

All of this doesn’t take away the fact that our education system has its challenges. I also agree with a lot of people that it would be a smart idea to track the learners who drop out or stay behind. However, we always have to be realistic about our judgement. DM


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