WATCH | Matric results: are pass rates a real measure of success?

15 January 2020 - 06:00 By EMILE BOSCH

As public school children return to school today, a new group of grade 12 pupils start their final year of high school.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga delivered the 2019 matric statistics earlier this month. South Africa achieved an 81.3% pass rate, the highest since  1994. 

A total of 409,906 matric pupils passed, with 330,730 achieving good enough passes to study for a bachelor's degree. 

These are numbers some may view as a positive outlook for the education sphere. 

However, some experts argue that these numbers fail to reflect a "true" pass rate as they fail to account for the many pupils who drop out of school before matric.

"It's unhelpful to look at the matric pass rate in isolation. We should be looking at things like the throughput matric pass rate, the number and quality of matric passes (especially in gateway subjects like maths and science) and how well this cohort of matrics does at university," said Dr Nic Spaull, a senior researcher in the economics department at Stellenbosch University. 

A total of 1,090,254 grade 1 learners in public schools were recorded in 2008, as per the year's education statistics published by the department of education. Compared with the 409,906 matriculants of 2019, an image of an extremely poor throughput rate forms. 

South Africa traditionally places an emphasis on matric pass rates as a measure of success. 

"We're obsessed with matric and we're obsessed with the academic matric," said Jan Badenhorst, CEO of Skills Academy.

Other options, such as TVET colleges and practical work experience, do exist. 

After failing grade 11 in 2009, 28-year-old Soweto resident Kagiso Mohlala left school.

"The matric results doesn't determine who you are," Mohlala said. 

Now an auto mechanic, Mohlala first attended an agricultural school and tried his hand at entrepreneurship before finding his passion. 

Not all manage to find their paths, as Mohlala has.

Both Spaull and Badenhorst spoke about the need for a realistic outlook regarding matric results.