Matric results: Where are the missing 400 000 pupils who started Grade 1 in 2007?

Education analyst Nic Spaull has raised concerns about the 2018 National Senior Certificate results announced on Thursday, among them the high dropout rate of pupils before they reach Grade 12.

"Until Minister of Education Angie Motshekga starts reporting and emphasising the 400 000 kids that dropped out of school (no proof of their educ status whatsoever, almost certainly unemployed, and they don't go to FET, btw)," Spaull tweeted.

Using a graph, Spaull illustrates that more than 1 002 500 pupils registered for Grade 1 in 2007 and only 512 700, 51%, wrote matric examinations in 2018.

Only 400 761, about 40%, passed matric, while 172 000, or 17%, obtained bachelor passes.

In response, Department of Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga tweeted a graph apparently demonstrating that the department does track pupil progression through its system. He said the minister did not shy away from addressing the dropout rate, so Spaull was "not the only person raising the issue".

Spaull further stated that for every 100 female matriculants there are only 82 male matriculants. The main reason for this, he said, was that girls do better than boys in most subjects and drop out at lower rates on average.

"Every year when I read through the 2018 matric reports, I'm shocked by the statistics on learners with special needs. Only 12% of the South African population live in the Western Cape but 64% of special needs matric candidates come from the Western Cape," he continued.

He wrote that a trick most provinces pull is to encourage academically weaker pupils to write matric exams as multiple exam opportunity candidates. This means they register as part-time students and can write their exams in two parts so their results don't count towards the statistics being celebrated now.

A sleight of hand

Professor Jonathan Jansen tweeted that watching the minister announce the matric results every year was like going to a magic show as a teenager.

"You (and the magician) know that what you're seeing is sleight of hand but you stay quiet because you are surrounded by many who actually believe in miracles," he wrote.

On Thursday both the EFF and the DA said there was little to celebrate about this year's matric results when there are hundreds of thousands of pupils who entered Grade 1 but didn't make it to Grade 12.

READ: Little to celebrate about 2018 matric results – DA, EFF

"These learners are either stuck repeating grades or being lost to the ANC's failing education system completely. The minister admits that retention should be part of the measure for matric, but conveniently forgets this each January when it's time to release matric results," DA education spokesperson Nomsa Marchesi, said. 

Marchesi raised concerns about the impact of the new multiple exam opportunity policy on the 2018 marks and argued that the real matric pass rate for 2018 is 37.6%, not 78.2%.

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