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‘Progressed learners’ pushed pass rate down: Motshekga

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The number of so-called “progressed learners” pushed down the matric pass rate for 2015, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday.

She was, however, quick to defend the pupils indicating they were not the only reason there was a decrease. Motshekga announced on Tuesday that the national pass rate had dropped to 70.7%, from 75.8% in 2014.

These were pupils who failed Grade 11 twice and were promoted to Grade 12 without meeting the passing criteria.

“I want to give a glimpse of what things could have been if we had not absorbed progressed learners but I’m grateful that we did that and as we move forward we will be able to support more of them,” Motshekga said.

“KwaZulu-Natal which was at 67%, even without progressed learners, they would have been at 61.6%. Eastern Cape would have been at 62%. Limpopo would have been at 71.1%, the Northern Cape would have stood at 77.2%. Mpumalanga has always aspired to hit the 82% mark and because of progressed learners, they have gone below 82.1%, North West would have had 84%, Gauteng would have been at 85%. The Free State would have had 87.7% and the Western Cape would have stood at a whopping 88% had it not been for progressed learners.”

Motshekga said the progressed learners were a reality and they did what we they had to do. She added that the decision was not regretted as many of the 65 000 progressed learners managed to pass their matric.

“We have progressed more than 65 671 learners. These are learners who would have not sat down to write. Out of that, 22 000 of them passed, representing 37.6 % of matrics who would not have sat for matric exams passing. [A total of] 3 297 of them obtained Bachelors qualification requirements, 8 463 got diploma requirements while 10 000 obtained national certificate requirements. Out of that, we obtained 1081 distinctions from them. So if there was a drop, it wasn’t because of progressed learners only,” she said.


The numbers of progressed learners who failed dragged the pass rates of various provinces down. The Western Cape was the best performing province with an 84.7% pass rate instead of 88%. Gauteng got an 84.2% pass rate instead of 85%.

The Free State was the third-best performing province with an 81.6% pass rate instead of 87.7%. The North West achieved a pass rate of 81.5% as compared to 84% without the progressed learners. Mpumalanga obtained a pass rate of 78.6% instead of the 82.2% the province has been aspiring to get. The Northern Cape got 69.4% instead of 77.2%. Limpopo achieved 65.9% instead of 71.1%, and KwaZulu-Natal got 60.7%.

The Eastern Cape had a pass rate of 56.8% instead of 62%. It was the worst performing province.

Another factor in the drop of the pass rate were the three rural provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape which were said to account for 53% of the learners who wrote the matric exams. They caused a 9% drop in the pass rate.

Motshekga called on the nation not to focus on the drop in the pass rate but to rather look at the quality of the education that was offered. She said 2015 question papers were different compared to the other years.

“We have taken a conscious decision to raise the standards and to improve the quality of our system. Learners were expected to deal with many challenges and deal with a lot of difficult questions.

“The 2015 NSC exam question papers bare the true hallmark of the caps curriculum underpinning the provision of the quality education which the South African nation has been yearning for. I’m saying to the South African nation, let’s not complain because you said we must raise the bar and we did. I think we should celebrate that,” she said. News24

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