‘Vanished’ pupils could dilute pass rate

2013-01-04 00:00

NEARLY 5 000 candidates “vanished” ahead of the matric exams in KwaZulu-Natal last year.

And if the missing numbers are factored into the official pass rate, it wipes the gloss off the Education Department’s celebrated achievements.

Instead of a pass rate of 73,1%, the figure drops to 70,2%, marginally better than last year, but still some way off national trends. It would undoubtedly fall much further if the attrition rate of the 2012 class over the years was also considered.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu yesterday made only a passing remark about the dropouts, saying they fell out for “various reasons”.

Department head Nkosinathi Sishi said later: “Some drop out, others move to other provinces, and some are those who already have a matric certificate, but register because they want to improve their marks. They then change their minds during the course of the year.”

A similar brouhaha erupted following the release of the national results by Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Wednesday night, when she declared a countrywide pass rate of 73,9%, an increase from 70,2% the year before.

However, the class of 2012 that wrote the exams was significantly smaller than the cohort that enrolled for their first year of school in 2001.

Lobby group Equal Education said 1 150 637 “born-frees” — the majority of this class were born in 1994 — started school 12 years ago, but only 551 837 sat down to write matric exams last year.

If those who fell out of the system were included, the national pass rate effectively plummeted to 32,9%.

Free State University vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen criticised the government for celebrating “mediocrity”.

In KZN, 132 232 candidates entered for the 2012 National Senior Certificate, yet only 127 253 wrote.

Of that number, 93 003 passed, up from 83 204 in 2011. Just over a third — 34 779 — qualified with a bachelor’s degree exemption.

Officials held a lavish party at Durban’s International Convention Centre yesterday, where the province’s top achievers, 95 in total, were announced. Each one of them was given a laptop and a voucher.

The top matric was named as Jyoti Maharaj, of New West Secondary School in Durban.

As expected, the announcement was accompanied by a host of figures, most of which suggested a positive trajectory for the department.

For instance, not a single district had a pass rate of less than 65%, and the performance by the poorest quintile schools matched their affluent counterparts in some cases.

Data showed that 18 schools in quintile one, at the poorest end of the scale, achieved 100% pass rates, the same number as in quintile five, the wealthiest.

But the difference told at the bottom end of the scale where many no-fee schools struggled, with some unable to pass a single pupil. By comparison, former Model C schools all had pass rates of 40% or more.

There has been steady progress since 2008, when the National Curriculum Statement was introduced.

Over five years, the pass rate has climbed from 82 478 to 93 003, a result, said Sishi, of “stabilisation” in the education system.

“It is quite clear from 2008, if you look at the effort made to stabilise the system, you can see how far we have come.”

He said the province was a barometer for the performance of the country overall, because of the “sheer numbers” in KZN, which had influenced the final outcome.

The province was placed sixth in South Africa.

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