Cape Town - The true matric pass rate could be only 40.2% if weaker pupils who may have been removed from the system are counted, DA MP Gavin Davis said on Friday.
According to the Department of Basic Education’s figures, 1 100 877 pupils enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014, but only 610 178 wrote Grade 12 in 2016, he said in a statement.
This meant that 44.6% of pupils either dropped out of the system or remained stuck in Grade 10 and 11.
By his calculations, by province, the “real” national pass rate should be 40.2% and not 72.5%.
See the DA's pass rate table here.
“But we need to remember that it is possible for a school, district or province to push up their pass rate simply by ensuring that fewer weaker learners write the matric exams,” claimed Davis.
He wanted Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to investigate the high dropout rate and explain if weaker pupils were deliberately removed from the schooling system to keep the overall pass rate up.
Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga dismissed this, saying the department's “progressed learner” policy contradicted his claims sharply.
Progressed learners are pupils who get stuck in Grade 11, failing at least once. Since 2013, the department began “progressing” them to Grade 12 - pushing them through even though they failed. Once in matric they get extra support. Given this chance to avoid dropping out completely, many pass and even qualify for university entrance.
If the results of these pupils were excluded, the 2016 pass rate was 76.2%. With their results it was 72.5%.
In a speech prepared for delivery at the release of the national results for government schools on Wednesday, Motshekga said the total number of full-time candidates who registered for the November 2016 National Senior Certificate was 674 652.
Of these candidates, 610 178 full-time candidates wrote the exams. This included 67 510 of the 108 742 progressed pupils who wrote the requisite number of subjects in November.
The rest of the progressed pupils would write in June 2017 because they were “modularizing” their exams.
Of the 67 510 progressed pupils who wrote, 29 384 (43%) passed.
“We are getting used to the DA whingeing about the matric every time the Western Cape doesn't come first,” Mhlanga said.
The department regarded it as a “mischievous accusation” aimed at diverting attention from the gains made.
“We reject his assertion that learners were culled. The fact of the matter is that we have spent resources towards a comprehensive learner support programme implemented countrywide.”
Davis was already chastised this week after he questioned the way education quality assurance body Umalusi adjusted the matric results in its standardisation process.
Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi rejected suggestions of foul play and offered to hold a workshop on the complex process for Parliament's basic education portfolio committee, which Davis was part of.
Davis had wanted to know why marks were adjusted upwards when papers were considered difficult and marks were lower than normal, and why not downwards if marks were higher than usual. He wanted an explanation on exactly how this was decided.
The ANC's parliamentary study group on basic education wanted him taken to task for discussing what it said was supposed to be a confidential process.
Study group chair Nomalungelo Gina said it respected the work of the experts who did the standardisation, and, unlike Davis, did not intend on pronouncing on the process.
In the meantime, the committee would refer his breach of confidentiality to the Speaker’s office to determine if Parliament’s rules had been breached.