Concerns about quality of matric
Cape Town - The 70.2% matric pass rate for 2011 was largely welcomed on Wednesday, with some reflecting on provincial results and the quality of the qualification.
President Jacob Zuma hailed the improved matric pass rate on Wednesday as a "step in the right direction".
"We would also like to draw special attention to those matriculants who, even though faced with adverse learning conditions, performed exceptionally well," Zuma said.
"You have demonstrated not only to your peers but to the rest of the country that your circumstances do not determine what you can and cannot do. We wish you well in your future plans."
The matric pass rate was up from 67.8% in 2010.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced results for 2011 in Pretoria on Wednesday.
She said a total of 348 117 pupils passed their exams. Of these, 24.3% obtained university entrance.
Quality of pass
The Inkatha Freedom Party Youth Brigade questioned whether the certificate would equip pupils with the right skills to excel at tertiary education institutions.
"I am happy that the matric pass rate has stabilised... but I am somewhat concerned about the quality of the actual pass," national chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said.
He said the high dropout rate of first year students at such institutions was of concern.
The African People's Convention said more could be done to ensure quality rather than quantity.
"We believe that there's a serious need for improvement on science, maths, business and economics," spokesperson Patrick Sindane said.
The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) believed the pass rate was visible proof that the ANC was prioritising education.
"The progress made provides a very firm foundation for the intensification of teaching and learning within the context of prioritised education by the ANC," spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said.
"We will be going to communities to popularise school exit routes and bursary opportunities for all eligible matriculants."
The Democratic Alliance congratulated matrics on Wednesday, especially those in the Western Cape who achieved a national high of 82.9%.
"Seven years of ANC government in the Western Cape saw a drop in the provincial pass rate of 11.6 percentage points, from 87.3% in 2003 to 75.7% in 2009," basic education spokesperson Wilmot James said.
He said the DA's first full year in government, in 2010, saw an improvement to 76.8%.
"It shows that getting the basics right in education can improve our children's education step by step," he said.
Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant said it was important to look not only at the pass rate but also the quality of the passes.
He said 801 more pupils in the province had achieved access to study towards a Bachelor Degree in 2012.
In maths, 68.7% of pupils passed their exam compared to 66% in 2010.
In physical sciences, the provincial pass rate improved from 59.6% to 65.3%.
Grant said one of the most noteworthy provincial results to come out of 2011 was the reduction in underperforming schools (schools that had a pass rate of less than 60% in 2010).
"This is significant as it indicates that improvements are being made not only at the top-end of the system, but also at many of our previously disadvantaged and poorer schools."
Badly performing schools
Inkatha Freedom Party education spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Lindani Mncwango, had less to celebrate after hearing the provincial pass rate dropped from 70.7% to 68.1%.
"The MEC needs to launch immediate investigations into those schools that performed badly," she said.
"Emergency remedy that will accommodate both teachers and learners is needed especially in our worst performing district which happens to be Obonjeni."
Mncwango said the main reason for the drop was "shoddy planning" by the provincial education department.
She said pupils needed to feel empowered and motivated.
"The IFP will be submitting questions to the MEC regarding the unacceptable performance by the province and the irregularities faced by Obonjeni," she said.
The Northern Cape was the other province to record a drop in its pass rate from 72.3% in 2010 to 68.8% in 2011.
Gauteng followed Western Cape as a good performer with a pass rate of 81.1% (78.6% in 2010), followed by the North West with a 77.8% pass rate (75.7% in 2010) and the Free State with a 75.7% pass rate (70.6% in 2010).
The Eastern Cape was the worst-performing province with a 58.1% pass rate, slightly down on the 58.3% achieved in the previous year.
Mpumalanga, which had in recent years been the poor performer, saw its pass rate jump from 56.8% in 2010 to 64.8%, while Limpopo's pass rate rose from 57.9% in 2010 to 63.9%.