Media Release

6 January, 2011

Western Cape achieves increases in pass rate and number of passes

Statement by Donald Grant, Western Cape Education Minister

I am pleased to announce that the Western Cape government has reversed a six year decline in the matric pass rate in this province.

The 2010 National Senior Certificate results indicate a turnaround in this province, with a percentage increase in the results from 75,7% in 2009 to 76,8% in 2010.

What is particularly gratifying is that all the key indicators in the province are showing a positive trend.

More candidates than ever wrote the NSC exams, passed the exams and achieved access to higher education. Furthermore, we have increased the pass rate in mathematics and science, increased the number of distinctions, increased the number of schools with a 90% and above pass rate and reduced the number of underperforming schools.

This is an impressive achievement and I would like to congratulate each and every candidate who achieved a pass this year.

We are confident that this increase is sustainable and is reflective of an overall improvement in the state of education in the Western Cape. This Government wants to avoid, at all costs, the kind of yo-yo effect that is sometimes experienced in other provinces, and instead build on the momentum achieved in the last year.

This turnaround in the pass rate and the increases in various indicators underscore that we are making significant progress towards achieving our overriding objectives, namely to retain greater numbers of learners in the system and to improve the quality of learner outcomes.

The following indicators have improved over the last year:

Increasing the percentage pass rate

As mentioned above, the pass rate has increased from 75,7% in 2009 to 76,8% in 2010.

The percentage pass rate in the Western Cape had consistently declined over the last six years, from 87.3% in 2003, to 75.7% in 2009. Therefore, we have now not only arrested this historical decline, but also moved the province into positive territory.

Improving learner retention

An all-time high number of candidates wrote the NSC examinations in 2010. In total, 45 783 full time candidates wrote the examinations, an increase of 852 from 2009.

This indicator is significant as we have said from the outset that we are determined to ensure as many learners as possible have the opportunity to pass the NSC, and in so doing, substantially improve their life chances.

From an education point of view, we would never consider a situation where the number of candidates writing is reduced or reclassified in an attempt to increase the percentage pass rate.

Increasing life chances

While improving retention is important, it comes with the pressure to increase the number of passes.

It becomes incredibly difficult to improve the percentage pass rate when there are such significant increases within a high performing public school system like ours. I must also point out that the actual number of candidates who pass the NSC is arguably more important than the percentage pass rate as it is a far more accurate reflection of the health of the system.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce that not only did we increase the pass rate, but we also increased the number of passes in the system.

35 139 candidates passed the NSC exams in 2010 as opposed to the 34 017 candidates who did so in 2009. This means that 1122 more candidates passed than in the previous year.

This is a substantial achievement as it means that more than 1100 young people will now have the opportunity to improve their life circumstances greatly than did in 2009.

Improving quality

The quality of the outcomes achieved in the examinations is another important indicator, and here again, there have been significant improvements compared to the outcomes of last year.

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

In this regard, only 4 out of the 35 139 candidates who passed the NSC examinations did not qualify for access to higher education studies. In other words, 99,9% of learners who passed the NSC examinations can now access some form of higher education.

Further evidence of improvements in quality is provided by the fact that 90 more learners qualified for access to Bachelor Degree study. The number eligible increased from 14 324 in 2009 to 14 414 in 2010.

The number of learners eligible for diploma studies increased dramatically from 12 677 in 2009 to 13 763 in 2010. This is an increase of 1086 learners.

The increase in eligibility for access to bachelor and diploma studies means that we reduced to the number of learners who passed with access only to certificate studies from 6 988 in 2009 to 6 958 in 2010.

More evidence of improved quality is that the number of schools who achieved a 90% or more pass rate has increased from 167 to 173. The number of schools with a pass rate of 80% has increased to 224 from 212 last year.

I am proud to cite some wonderful examples of schools that have performed especially well in often difficult circumstances. For example, Joe Slovo High School in Khayelitsha improved its pass rate from 69,5% to 75,7%, and more importantly, ensured that 39 additional candidates passed the NSC examinations.

Langeberg High School in Robertson improved its pass rate from 48,9% to 87,2% and ensured an impressive 76 more learners passed Grade 12.

Sinethemba High School in Phillipi improved its pass rate from 46,4% to 52,7%, but most critically, ensured that 101 additional learners passed their exams in comparison with the number in 2009.

We have also managed to reduce the number of underperforming schools from 85 to 78, with a number of these schools having increased the numbers passing as well as their overall pass rate.

Final evidence of the improvement in the quality of passes is indicated by the fact that the number of candidates who passed with seven distinctions has shown a 58% improvement, rising from 119 in 2009 to 205 in 2010. This is mirrored by an even greater increase for candidates passing with six distinctions, which has shown a 62% improvement, increasing from 200 in 2009 to 319 in 2010.

Improving mathematics and science passes

Good results in these subjects open up study and work opportunities for young people and are important for the growth of the Western Cape and South Africa as whole.

Again, this year, we have seen improvements in the results in these subjects.

The percentage pass rate for Mathematics has increased from 64,9% in 2009 to 66,0% in 2010.

With regard to mathematical literacy, the pass rate increased from 88,4% to a pleasing 93,7%.

Overall the number of learners who passed either mathematics or mathematical literacy increased from 35 785 to 38 499.

It is also gratifying to note that the percentage pass rate for physical science has increased from 52,9% to 59,6%.


I would like to thank all the learners, teachers, district officials and their support teams for their hard work and commitment in making these positive results a reality.

I would also like to thank the educator unions, governing body associations, universities and various education organizations for the role they played in assisting the department this last year.

While we are pleased with the overall outcome of the NSC examinations in the province, it is clear that there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that all schools provide the level of quality education that we are determined to achieve.

We will shortly undertake a circuit-by-circuit and school-by-school analysis to identify serial underperformers. Once these have been identified, we will not hesitate to hold serial underperformers to account utilizing all available measures.

Finally, I would like to appeal to the class of 2011 and indeed all learners and teachers from Grade 1 to 12 to ensure that they arrive at school on time and make sure they make maximum use of every school day in 2011.

We have already put in a place a number of measures that will ensure, as far as possible, that all schools in the province are able to start teaching and learning on the first day of school. While there will always be teething problems in a system this big, we are confident that we can build on this momentum and ensure that 2011 is the best year ever for schooling in the Western Cape.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide the one million learners in this province the quality education they deserve.

For enquiries, contact Bronagh Casey:  072 724 1422 or

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