Media Release
Minister of Education Donald Grant
Western Cape

5 January, 2012

NSC results show systems improvement in the Western Cape

Statement by Minister Donald Grant, Minister of Education, Western Cape

Yesterday's release of the 2011 National Senior Certificate (NSC) results was an exciting and happy occasion.

The results indicate that since 2009 significant progress has been made in improving the education system and learner outcomes in this province.

In 2010 the Western Cape Provincial Government reversed a six year decline in the matric pass rate in this province. In 2011 we continued to make further improvements - increasing the pass rate even further from 76.8% to 82.9%.

What is particularly gratifying is that key indicators in the province are continuing to show a positive trend.

This is a reflection of a maturing provincial education system responding positively to a number of systems improvements. More children have access to schools staffed with qualified teachers who are present, prepared and using texts and more children are at schools managed by a competent and accountable principal.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all Grade 12 learners who passed the NSC examinations for their hard work and commitment and to encourage all learners who did not pass their exams not to give up and to continue doing whatever they can to complete Grade 12.

Indicators of success

When assessing the NSC results, one should consider - in addition to the percentage pass rate - a combination of indicators, including the quantity and quality of passes. This gives a far better picture of the health and progress of the education system.

In this regard, the Western Cape has again achieved some substantial improvements in 2011.

Improving learner retention

When considering the quantity of passes, one should consider the retention rate of learners. In other words, are more learners progressing from grade 1 to grade 12 year on year?

If we consider the number of learners that enter the system in Grade 1 compared to the number of these learners who actually write the NSC examinations 12 years later, we can ascertain what the retention rate has been for learners progressing through the system and completing their school career in the Western Cape.

What is most apparent and pleasing is that our Government has made significant inroads in the last two years in improving the retention rate of learners - and quite dramatically so - giving more learners the opportunity to write their NSC and complete their school career.

The retention rate in the Western Cape (i.e. being the percentage differential between the number of learners entering the system and the number of learners writing the NSC examinations) has improved by 16.5% in the last two years, increasing from 45.2% in 2009 to 52.4% in 2010 and an impressive 61.7% in 2011.

Tables 1 and 2 included in the document provided to you illustrate the year-on-year improvement that has been achieved in the Western Cape in this regard.

Table 1: Learners enrolling in the system in Grade 1
  1997 1998 1999 2000
Grade 1 97 854 99 380 87 436 64 844

Table 2: Learners writing the NSC examinations
  2008 2009 2010 2011
Candidates writing the
NSC examinations
43 957 44 931 45 783 39 988
% retained 44.9% 45.2% 52.4% 61.7%

Improving quality

While the quantity of passes is key we should also look at the quality of passes achieved by candidates each year.

In many ways, this is significant, as universities in South Africa and abroad look at the quality of the pass and set requirements for bachelor degree study and diploma study accordingly.

Despite the decrease in the number of full time candidates who wrote and passed the 2011 NSC examinations, in 2011 we significantly increased the number of candidates who achieved access to Bachelor Degree study.

801 more learners qualified for Bachelor Degree study in 2011 than in 2010. This number has steadily increased over the last three years with the total number eligible increasing from 14 324 in 2009 to 14 414 in 2010 and 15 215 in 2011 (i.e. a percentage increase of 6.5% from 2010 to 2011).

This significant achievement indicates that the education system is maturing and the quality of education in the Western Cape is steadily improving.

There has also been a significant improvement in the number of 'A' symbols (distinctions) attained in 2011 compared to 2010.

As further evidence of improved quality within the system, we are pleased to note that the number of schools in the Western Cape that achieved a percentage pass rate of 90% or more increased from 174 in 2010 to 191 in 2011. Furthermore, the number of schools that achieved a percentage pass rate of 80% or more has increased from 224 in 2010 to 269 in 2011.

I am extremely proud to cite some wonderful examples of schools that have performed especially well in often difficult circumstances. For example:

  • Imizamo Yethu Secondary in Thembalethu in George improved its pass rate from 27% in 2010 to 82% in 2011, and more importantly, ensured that 55 more candidates passed the NSC examinations in 2011 than in 2010.

  • Masiyele Secondary improved its pass rate from 34% in 2010 to 86.8% in 2011 and ensured that 60 more learners passed Grade 12 in 2011 than in 2010. An impressive achievement!

Improving mathematics and science passes

Good results in mathematics and physical science 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, in 2011, we have seen improvements in the results for these subjects.

In 2011, 68.7% of candidates passed their mathematics exam, compared to 66% in 2010.

In physical sciences, the percentage pass rate improved substantially from 59.6% in 2010 to 65.3% in 2011 - a percentage increase of 5.7%.

Reducing the number of underperforming schools

A top priority for the Western Cape Provincial Government is to reduce the number of underperforming schools (i.e. schools achieving a percentage pass rate of less than 60%) in the province.

While it is obvious that improvements are also being made at the top-end of the system, we can confidently say that substantial progress has been made at many of our previously disadvantaged and poorer schools in 2011.

In 2011, the Western Cape managed to reduce the number of underperforming schools from 78 in 2010 to 30 in 2011. This is an excellent achievement of which the Western Cape Education Department can be very proud!

Further to this, good progress has been made in 2011 in improving the learner outcomes of schools in poorer communities of the province.

Firstly, the percentage pass rate across Quintiles 1, 2 and 3 increased to more than 70% in 2011.

Secondly, six schools in Quintile 1 improved their percentage pass rates from below 60% in 2010 to above 60% in 2011. Similarly, eleven schools in Quintile 2 and eight schools in Quintile 3 achieved percentage pass rates of more than 60%. Some examples include:

  • Leiden Secondary School in Delft which improved its percentage pass rate from 42.2% in 2010 to 87.3% in 2011 and achieved 117 passes in 2011; and

  • Sinethemba Secondary School in Mitchell's Plain which improved its percentage pass rate from 52.7% in 2010 to 78% in 2011 and achieved 163 passes in 2011.

And, thirdly, the number of learners qualifying for Bachelor Degree study improved significantly across all Quintiles. Special mention must be made of the fact that more than 16% of learners in Quintiles 1, 2 and 3 who wrote the NSC examinations qualified for Bachelor Degree study in 2011.


As we reflect on the achievements of the Class of 2011, I should 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 should also like to congratulate all of our principals who have ensured that their schools' targets were appropriately set and suitably attained in 2011 with the support of the education district offices and circuit team offices.

My sincere appreciation goes to all the educators who have successfully prepared the candidates for the 2011 NSC examinations and whose dedication and hard work do not go unnoticed.

Thanks must also go to the educator unions, governing body associations, universities and various education organisations for the role that they have played in supporting the efforts of the WCED in 2011.

We are pleased with the overall outcome of the 2011 NSC examinations and are aware of the steps that need to be taken to improve the quality of education in the Western Cape even further. In the coming weeks, we will conduct a detailed analysis of the 2011 NSC results to ensure that we continue to take the steps needed to improve education outcomes in the Western Cape.

We believe that the good progress made in improving education outcomes in the Western Cape since 2009 is the product of a maturing provincial education system and we believe that this progress can be sustained through the continued promotion and protection of teaching and learning time.

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