Media Release

4 January 2011

Matric results - indicators of success

Statement by Donald Grant, Western Cape Education Minister

On Thursday 6 January 2010 over 45 000 young people from the Western Cape will receive their National Senior Certificate results. For these young people who wrote the examinations, the results can enhance or limit their life chances.

As we prepare for the release of the results it is important to analyse and interpret them correctly in order to obtain an accurate sense of the state of education in the Western Cape.

Key questions to ask in this regard are the following:

  • Is the throughput rate improving? In other words, are more learners who start in grade 1 progressing to grade 12 year on year?
  • How many learners are studying and passing mathematics and science so that they can provide the skills needed for the growth of the province, South Africa and her people?
  • What is the quality of the passes achieved by the successful candidates?

The National Senior Certificate results can provide some insight into these questions if we examine the appropriate indicators.

Changes in the throughput or retention rate can be gauged by considering the numbers of learners enrolling for and writing the National Senior Certificate each year. If the throughput is improving then there should be a steady increase in the numbers at the grade 12 level, taking the natural increase in population into account.

In 2010, a record number of 47 000 learners enrolled to write the National Senior Certificate examinations in the Western Cape. Since 2009, a strategic priority for the WCED has been to limit the number of learners who annually do not actually write the NSC exams either because they are pressured to do so by their schools or because they do not believe they have any chance of passing

In 2010 the WCED encouraged all schools to retain learners in their grade 12 year and to ensure they wrote the National Senior Certificate examinations. In response some schools' senior teachers 'adopted' learners by looking out for them and encouraging and counselling them during the matric year.

This has resulted in more candidates actually writing the NSC exams than in previous years and saw 45 764 full-time learners writing the National Senior Certificate examinations in November 2010. This is an all-time high for the province.

It is important to note that it is far harder to improve the percentage pass rate when there is a significant increase in the number of learners who write the exams. We however believe it is important to give as many young people as possible the opportunity to pass the NSC.

From an education point of view we would not consider a situation where the number of candidates writing is reduced in an attempt to increase the percentage pass rate.

Of course, this retention must be accompanied by an increase in the numbers passing the examinations. In 2009 there was a decline in the numbers passing compared to 2008 and so the WCED has set out through a number of interventions in a difficult year for education to increase the numbers of learners passing in 2010. This number will be the key indicator to watch when the results are released on Thursday, rather than just necessarily the percentage pass rate.

Another way of looking at the quality of the National Senior Certificate results is to study the different types of pass achieved by candidates each year. Universities in South Africa and abroad look at the quality of the pass and set requirements for bachelor degree study and diploma study.

Learners have to achieve certain levels of pass in particular subjects to qualify for degree or diploma study. It is therefore important that we not only consider the number passing the National Senior Certificate but the number qualifying for degree and diploma study.

The WCED will be looking at and publishing the numbers of learners achieving these high quality passes. We have been determined to ensure that they achieve the best quality of pass possible, ensuring that as many candidates as possible who pass the NSC are afforded access to higher education. In this context it would be ideal to increase the number of candidates passing with access to bachelor degree and diploma studies, rather than certificate studies. It is interesting to note that this has been emphasised in the publication of the results of the independent schools.

Finally, and linked to the above point, any analysis of the matric results must consider the numbers and ratio of learners passing mathematics and science. Good results in these subjects open up study and work opportunities for individuals and are important for the growth of South Africa.

So, when we consider the 2010 matric results, we should look beyond the pass rate and look at the indicators of success: improved opportunity for more learners to write and pass the National Senior Certificate and the quality of the passes.

That's what the smart analysts will be doing on Thursday.

Visit our website:

return to: WCED Home page | Media Releases Index page
2010 WCED