1 in 6 matrics failed maths
Johannesburg - One in six pupils who wrote last year's matric maths paper got less than 10%, City Press reported on Sunday.
More than half the matrics who wrote physical science got less than 30% for the subject, according to figures the paper obtained from education quality assurance body Umalusi.
The average mark for the maths paper was 29%, 32% for physical science and 38% for life sciences.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on January 4 that 70.2% of matrics at public schools passed last year's exams, up from 67.8% in 2010.
Figures showed only nine percent of those who wrote maths and 10 percent of those who wrote physical science had, according to the department's criteria, an adequate understanding of these subjects, the newspaper reported.
The figures were "frightening", education expert Professor Graeme Bloch told the City Press.
"We are perhaps improving slowly, but not fast enough for a competitive world."
The numbers also showed fewer pupils were taking critical subjects like maths, physical science and accounting.
The pass mark should be set at the globally accepted standard of 50%, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, Paul Colditz said.
"We are misleading ourselves and the learners. A 50% [pass] would, however, reduce the number of successful candidates dramatically, and embarrass the political and educational leaders."
Matrics however did well in languages, and across the 11 official languages, average marks of well above 50% were achieved.
Wits University education Professor Mary Metcalfe told the newspaper: "These maths results are deeply worrying for our progress in scarce skills areas. Many teachers need more support with both mathematics and the specific challenges of teaching concepts," she told the City Press.
The Umalusi data showed far fewer pupils enrolled for English and Afrikaans as a home language than in previous years.