• Jessica Stanier

Matric 2020 Results: What does it mean for SA?

With the release of the Matric 2020 results, the media is either a-buzz with celebration or tales of doom and gloom. Only a 5% drop in the pass rate, some celebrate, while others bemoan the fall in the pass rate as a further indication of the problems in our education system. So, what do the results mean? And what do they tell us about the system that we entrust our young people to for their education? Well, let’s get into that...

Firstly, it needs to be noted that the 2020 Matrics completed the school year under unprecedented challenges, both emotional and practical for that we need to say, Well Done! With less in-class teaching than any other year of Matrics (missing about two-thirds of the year by some estimations), you found the resilience to prepare, plan, and learn for these exams. Well done!

The 2020 pass rate fell over 5% from 2019; however, COVID-19 was not the only factor that played into these results. In previous years, learners that were progressed into Matric, (meaning they had failed Grade 11 twice) had the option of writing their exams over 2 years in what is called the Multiple Examination Approach. 2020 was the first year that a learner was required to write all their Matric Exams in one sitting, even those who had been progressed. This perhaps had an impact on the pass rate in addition to the strain of COVID-19.

Let’s look at some of the numbers that have been thrown around and reflect on them a bit. Firstly, every year the schooling system in South Africa takes on about 1.2 million new learners in Grade 1. By the time these learners reached Grade 12, in 2020, only 607,227 learners sat for the Matric exams. This is a drop off of about 50%. In 2020 we had just over 440,000 pass the Matric Exams. Looking at the number of pupils that should be in Matric (without dropping out of school), the pass rate is more accurately around 37%. This means that only 3 out of every 10 learners are finishing High School in this country.

Learners who beat the odds and complete High School (writing and passing the Matric exam), only 30% will make it to university. This means that out of all the learners who should have made it to Grade 12, only 1 out of 10 will make it to university or college.

When we look at the numbers holistically, we cannot help but see that there is much work to be done in the education system. While COVID-19 added a huge strain to the system, these numbers have remained relatively constant since 2012. And while the pass rate has steadily increased (with a noted 5% decrease this year), this hasn’t translated into a higher level of retention of learners in school, nor has it improved employment among youth.

And so, while we celebrate the victory of so many Matrics who laboured for their pass result this past year, we also continue to put our shoulders to the plough alongside every educator, parent, learner, school administrator, and organisation who are working tirelessly to change these stats and restore hope for the future to the next generation.

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