Johannesburg - More than 100 000 "progressed learners" could have a significant impact on the National Senior Certificate pass rate, which Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to announce on Wednesday evening.
The 2015 matric pass rate fell to 70.7%, from 75.8% in 2014.
Preliminary figures the Department of Basic Education released in October suggested that the class of 2016 included more than 100 000 progressed pupils.
The biggest jump was in KwaZulu-Natal, where the figure increased from 10 633 in 2015, to 28 036 this year.
The department’s Dr Rufus Poliah referred to the "progressing" of pupils during a technical briefing ahead of the results announcement in Midrand.
They are those pupils who fail the same grade twice and are then promoted to the next grade. Poliah stressed that, in the NSC, standards would not be relaxed.
"Progressing learners to other grades is to ensure learners don't get frustrated and drop out. It allows them to stay in the system. However, progressed learners must still meet the requirements of the NSC to pass. They aren't pushed through," he said.
"If a person fails a grade twice, there is no value in retaining the learner in that grade. The learner must be progressed and supported in terms of the knowledge deficit that he or she has accumulated over the years."
Progression could have a significant effect on the overall NSC result. The number of progressed pupils has increased significantly from last year. A total of 43 071 more pupils were progressed in 2016.
'Adjustments made as a matter of routine'
DA MP Gavin Davis first raised doubts last week, when he wrote an open letter to the CEO of education quality assurance body Umalusi, Dr Mafu Rakometsi, questioning the way some matric marks were increased, if raw mark averages were lower than previous years.
This was based on his observation of Umalusi’s verification process. Raw marks are the marks pupils get in their exams. A drop in the average was attributed to a very difficult exam question or paper.
Conversely, if marks were higher than normal, they were kept as they were.
"It would be interesting to hear, in the case of each adjustment, what made that case exceptional. Because it seemed to me, as an observer, that some adjustments were made as a matter of routine, rather than exception," Davis told News24.
The department said it might take three to five years to get the pass rate on an upward trend again, because of changes in the education system.