Teaching in the Free State has already begun in earnest, in order to ensure the province returns to the top spot next year when National Senior Certificate results are announced.Free State MEC for education, Tate Makgoe, told News24 that his teachers started teaching Grade 12 pupils on Wednesday.Sign-up here to get your 2018 matric resultsThe province held the number one spot in the country for two consecutive years. It achieved a 93% matric pass rate in 2016 and an 86% pass rate in 2017.But in 2018, it slipped down to position two in the country, achieving 87.5%, which is still a 1.5% increase from the previous year. Gauteng had the highest pass rate with 87.9%."We are correcting our mistakes. We want to return to the top where we belong. I am proud to announce that teaching in the province has started and learners are already in classrooms preparing for their final examinations."Teaching is key. I want to have better results than what we achieved in 2018. I am happy that we saw an increase from 2017 results, although we could not maintain the top spot," he said.Makgoe was full of smiles as journalists sought interviews with him after the announcement of the 2018 matric results on Thursday.He said that as he listened to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga speaking, he thought of a new strategy that he must implement soon to return to the top.READ: National matric results pass rate is 75.1%"Part of our strategy is to ensure that we support learners more and do all the things that are needed to be done. Before the results were announced, we thought we did well as the province. When I looked at the number one position, it included progressive learners who played a major role in increasing the number of achievers."We have set up a new strategy to support progressive learners more. We are going to intensify our performance from primary school level, this is where we are preparing our learners at an early age to easily perform when they reach high school level," he said.Impoverished provinceMakgoe said 90% of the schools in the Free State were no-fee paying and the majority of learners, if not all of them, depend on the school feeding scheme programme."Remember, we are competing with Gauteng and the Western Cape and we still performed well. These two provinces have a smaller number of no-fee paying schools compared to our province. They had an advantage over us because they are exposed to many universities and other support structures which assist their learners compared to us."We are a rural province where the majority of our learners are from poor backgrounds and depend on the school to ensure that they have something in their stomachs when they are in our schools. I think that we did not work much harder than expected. This is the time to go back to basics," he said.Makgoe said all districts in the province improved in 2018, and two of his districts were in the top 10 nationally, while Gauteng scooped eight districts.The Fezile Dabi district in the Free State is ranked number one in the country, and Makgoe said he wants to see all districts in the province in the top 10 next year. - See our Matric Results page.