Pass rate 'nothing to celebrate'
At least half of 2012's successful matrics face a dim future with an estimated 45% of them not having marks good enough to get them a tertiary education.
And a leading education specialist has warned that the pass rate is not something to be celebrated.
Professor Shireen Motala, of the University of Johannesburg's postgraduate centre for research and innovation, said: "People are celebrating passing but I think there needs to be a breakdown of who is getting into university and who is not."
She said that many of the large number of pupils who obtained a higher-certificate pass in last year's matric examination would have little access to study opportunities after school.
"They will not be accepted at university and they will not be accepted by technikons.
"With a higher certificate you can get into a further education and training college, or get an internship, but more than that is going to be a struggle, especially when it comes to getting meaningful employment.
"At least half of last year's matriculants obtained higher certificates but that, unfortunately, is nothing to celebrate. It really is a huge worry.
"Some will find money to go to a private institution, like a computer college - at huge cost - but others will be unemployed."
Motala said poor matric passes was the "real issue".
"If you look at the National Development Plan, or at the green paper on higher education and training, the expectations around the human-resource capacity and the needs are huge.
"It is clear that we are going to fall short in terms of reaching those goals. It is a concern.
"We need to look at moving the level of passes up to diplomas and university entrance".
Doron Isaacs, deputy general secretary of NGO Equal Education, said gaining employment would be difficult for matriculants who did not make it into tertiary institutions.
"The reality is that there are about 2.4million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are unemployed and not in education or training facilities, and hundreds of thousands of young people are being added to that number every year.
"Many of our 2012 matrics will be added to that pool and many will find that the economy is not absorbing them.
There are simply no opportunities." - Additional reporting by Philani Nombembe