South African national pass rate of the National Senior Certificate examinations fell once again in 2009, reaching only 60.7 percent. The National Senior Certificate examinations are held at the end of high school (grade 12) and are a necessary requirement for enrolling into the institutions of higher, tertiary education.
The matric pass rate in 2009 was two percent lower that in 2008. More worryingly, the latest results form part of a long-term downward trend. Here are the pass percentages for the last seven years:
- 2003: 73.3 percent
- 2004: 70.7 percent
- 2005: 68.3 percent
- 2006: 66.5 percent
- 2007: 65.2 percent
- 2008: 62.7 percent
- 2009: 60.6 percent
The only province that showed an improvement in 2009 was KwaZulu-Natal. There, the matric pass rate was 61.1 percent, up from 57.6 percent in 2008. On the other side, Mpumalanga has registered the poorest performance with a pass rate of 47.9 percent, a decline of 3.9 percent in comparison with 2009. Furthermore, this province was plagued – once again – by reports of matric exams leaks, which at one time threatened to bring into question the 2009 exams.
To get the matric certificate, candidates need to pass six subjects - three with the minimum mark of 30 percent and three with the minimum mark of 40 percent. Many say that this already low pass threshold underscores the poor results of 2009. Even more worrying is the high drop-out rate from grade 10: over 40 percent of South African learners never even reach matric exams, which take place at the end of grade 12.
An article published online in The Teacher’s Monthly points to several factors which can be seen as causes of the low matric pass rate: poor (or unqualified) teachers; lack of resources; ineffective school leadership; and poor socio-economic circumstances. The article goes on to point out one additional factor: The National Senior Certificate (matric) is based primarily on examination system, while in their whole education young South Africans are primarily marked on other, not exam-types of assessment - until they reach grade 10, that is.