Class of 2021 exceed expectations

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Motshekga announced that the matric pass rate was 76.2%, up 4% from 2020. Photo: Melinda Stuurman
Motshekga announced that the matric pass rate was 76.2%, up 4% from 2020. Photo: Melinda Stuurman


Despite facing multiple challenges, particularly those related to Covid-19, the matric class of 2021 was lauded for its performance by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday evening during the announcement of the results.

Motshekga announced that the matric pass rate was 76.2%, up 4% from 2020.

The minister said the class of 2021 should be applauded for not dropping the standard, “despite the astronomical challenges they faced”.

The class of 2021 lost more than 50% of its Grade 11 curriculum when schools were closed in 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19. When they returned to class, the curriculum had to be trimmed to cater for lost time.

READ: Matric 2021 top achievers lauded for their exemplary dedication

At a breakfast to honour the top achievers on Thursday, Motshekga said the class of 2021 was “literally and figuratively a class of its own”, and the epitome of how to succeed under difficult circumstances.

At the announcement of the results, Motshekga said that the class of 2021 had attained the most bachelor passes since the National Senior Certificate (NSC) was introduced.

The number of pupils who achieved bachelor passes – thereby qualifying to study at university – was 256 031, an improvement of 21.4% from 2020.

“This represents 36.4% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2021 NSC exams.” Motshekga said: 

By the way, the 2021 bachelor passes in number is the highest attained in the entire history of the NSC examinations; but the second-highest to that attained in 2019 when expressed as a percentage.

No-fee schools registered a 29.5% increase in bachelor passes. Pupils from special needs schools contributed 879 bachelor passes out of the 2 489 who sat for the exams.

The class of 2021 also obtained more distinctions compared with 2020, with 211 725 candidates achieving distinctions, an increase of 19.3%.

Motshekga also said that this was the largest cohort of pupils who had sat for Grade 12 exams.

Motshekga said that the class of 2021 was also affected by several policy changes – it was the first class that wrote after the discontinuation of the multiple examination opportunity, where pupils could choose to write some subjects the following year.

They were also the group of pupils who had to write two accounting and business studies question papers, and a third paper for all second additional languages.

There were also changes in the structure and duration of some question papers, said Motshekga.

Notably, she said, 82.3% of the full-time candidates and 40.2% of the part-time candidates of the class of 2021 were 16- to 20-year-olds.

READ: Education system will not survive if pupils do not return to school full-time – Motshekga

She said some of these pupils would have been part of the early childhood development programme initiated in 2009, and so they would have benefited from the foundation of lifelong learning.

“The high quality passes we have achieved this year, especially the number of bachelor and diploma passes, the overall pass mark, and the passes with distinctions, even in critical subjects, are the hallmarks of the performance of the class of 2021,” Motshekga said.

“The classes of 2020 and 2021 produced the best results of quality in the history of the NSC exams. We are of the strong view that, had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic, these two classes could have been the best performers since the inception of the NSC exams.

“We are indeed proud of the classes of 2020 and 2021, which persevered against such monumental challenges that our system was never exposed to in the past.”


Bongekile Macupe  

Senior Education Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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