Matric pass rate drops by 5.1%, but resilience in the time of Covid-19 is hailed

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Twitter
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Twitter


The matric pass rate for the class of 2020 stands at 76.2%, when including progressed candidates – a decline of 5.1% from 2019.

Progressed pupils are those who fail a grade for two consecutive years and are then promoted to the next grade.

A total of 65 499 of these pupils sat for exams – 24 244 passed, 3 026 of them achieved bachelor passes, while 10 107 obtained diploma passes.

Without progressed candidates, the pass rate stands at 81.2% – a decrease of 1.1% from 2019.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the results during the virtual briefing on Monday.

In relation to provinces:

  • Free State retained the first spot at 85.1%, a decline from 3.2% from 2019;
  • Gauteng achieved 83.8%, a drop of 3.5%;
  • Western Cape achieved 79.9%, a decline of 2.4%;
  • KwaZulu-Natal achieved 77.6%, a decrease of 3.7%;
  • North West achieved 76.2%, a decline of 10.6%;
  • Mpumalanga achieved 73.7%, a decrease of 6.6%;
  • Limpopo achieved 68.2%, a 5.0% decrease;
  • Eastern Cape achieved 68.1, a decline of 8.3%; and
  • Northern Cape achieved 66.0%, a decline of 10.5%.

Motshekga said without progressed candidates, provinces performed above 70% and five were above 80%.

It is a pity that we missed the 80% glass ceiling we achieved last year.
Minister Angie Motshekga
Top ten (10) districts in the country are
  • First place, is Tshwane South from Gauteng with 89.6%; 
  • Second, is Johannesburg West in Gauteng, with 88.1%; 
  • Third, is Gauteng North in Gauteng with 87.0%; 
  • Fourth, is Johannesburg North in Gauteng with 86.9%; 
  • Fifth, is Sedibeng East in Gauteng, with 86.8%; 
  • Sixth, is Fezile Dabi in the Free State, with 86.5%; 
  • Seventh, is Thabo Mofutsanyana in the Free State, with 85.8%; 
  • Tied at eighth, are Metro North in the Western Cape and Ekurhuleni South in Gauteng, with 85.4%; 
  • Tenth, is Motheo in the Free State, with 85.2%; 

Read: Slight drop in IEB results as 98.07% candidates pass amid pandemic

Motshekga said the basic education system has begun to reach the desired stability, which is healthy for a large system.

“It is a pity that we missed the 80% glass ceiling we achieved last year. Though we appreciate the unquestionable resilience our school community has shown against such a devastating pandemic, and managed to achieve a plausible 76.2% national pass.

“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 2020. We are of the strong view that, had it not been for the novel Covid-19 pandemic, the class of 2020 could have been the best performers, since the inception of the National Senior Certificate (NSC),” Motshekga said.

The future of our pupils, and the prosperity of our nation, is in our hands. We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.
Minister Angie Motshekga

She said they were proud of the class of 2020, which persevered against such monumental challenges that the system was never exposed to in the past.

“This class has characterised the resilience of the system, which withstood an unprecedented test of administering an examination of the largest number of candidates, faced by the worst pandemic in human history. In celebrating the great achievements of the class of 2020, we must also thank the principals, teachers, support staff and parents for the work they continue to do. Schools are at the coalface of basic education delivery. What you do at school level is what matters the most. The future of our pupils, and the prosperity of our nation, is in our hands. We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.”

Motshekga said she was “expecting a bloodbath” but instead, the class of 2020 achieved more quality passes than any other class before.

The total number of candidates who registered for the 2020 NSC exams was 725 034, comprising of 607 226 full-time candidates and 117 808 part-time candidates.

Read: What to expect at varsities this year

Motshekga said the performance of 275 615 no fee schools was remarkable.

“Bachelor passes achieved by pupils in no fee schools, stand at 115 444. The poignancy of this increase lies in what research tells us, that in 2005, 60% of the Bachelor passes, came from the best performing 20% of the schooling system.

“However, with the introduction of pro-poor policies in the education system in 2015, no fee schools produced 51% of the Bachelor passes, which increased to 58% in 2020 (compared to 55% in 2019),” she said.

“Therefore, the significance of this, is that the gap between the Bachelor passes produced by no fee schools versus those produced by fee paying schools has significantly and progressively increased from 2% in 2015, to 13% in 2020 – a 3% improvement from 2019. This is remarkable indeed,” Motshekga said.


Msindisi Fengu 


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69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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