Africa-Press – South-Africa. DURBAN – THE matric class of 2020 could have been the most successful in the Department of Basic Education’s history to date had it not been interrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19 that took away almost half of their school calendar.
This was the view of education experts, teacher unions and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga yesterday after she announced that the matric pass rate had dropped by only 5%.
The drop, they said, was far less than expected and the fact that it was so minuscule considering all the external factors shows that the 2020 class could have been one for the record books.
According to the results released by Motshekga yesterday, all provinces recorded a drop in the pass percentage, with KwaZulu-Natal results declining from 81% last year to 77% this year, a drop of 3.7%. In terms of the top performing province, KZN was ranked fourth behind the Free State, Gauteng and the Western Cape. Ugu was named as the leading district in KZN, with 81.7%.
Motshekga said while it was disappointing to register a drop in the results, it was much less than what she had expected.
She said the matric class of 2020 had shown more quality in their pass and if it weren’t for the pandemic, they could have been the best class in the system.
She said the class of 2020 of progressed pupils, which did very well in the exams without much support from the department, had dragged down the pass rate. For the first time this year, the department had required all progressed pupils to write all their exams as opposed to the previous years when they wrote only the subjects they were ready to write.
The 2020 matric overall pass rate, with the progressed pupils included, stands at 76.2% – a decline of 5.1% from the record pass of 81.3% achieved by the class of 2019. Without the progressed pupils, the overall pass rate stands at 81.2% – a 1.1% decline from 2019.
Further analyses of the results show that the number of candidates qualifying for admission to Bachelor studies was 210 820 – an improvement of 13.3% from 2019.
“The significance of these achievements is that the (24 244) progressed learners who passed were the would-be-high-school repeaters and drop-outs, who have a golden opportunity to access either higher education institutions, TVET colleges and other skills development institutions. What a positive story,” she said.
The minister said the high-quality passes achieved this year, especially the number of Bachelor and diploma passes, the overall pass mark, and the passes with distinctions, even in critical subjects, were 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. This class has characterised the resilience of the system, which withstood an unprecedented test of administering an exam of the largest number of candidates, faced by the worst pandemic in human history,” she said.
Motshekga said in the number of candidates who passed with a diploma (150 600) represented an increase of 4.1% from 2019, which represents 26.0% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2020 NSC exams.
The number of candidates who passed with higher certificate (79 117) was an improvement of 0.2% from 2019, which represents 13.7% of the total number of candidates who wrote.
She also said 177 435 distinctions were obtained, an increase of 13.1% from 2019, with the main contributors being KZN, Gauteng, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
Professor Labby Ramrathan, director of the School of Education Studies at UKZN, said it was surprising that the marks had dropped nationally by just 5% as he had expected it to be more.
“A drop of 5% in such trying times speaks to the commitment of both the teachers and the pupils and we must congratulate them,” he said.
Basil Manuel, the executive director of the National Professional Teacher Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said managing to achieve a pass rate of 76.2% in the face of the adversity Grade 12 learners experienced in 2020 was beyond expectation.
“While it is fitting to congratulate the Education Departments, it is our teachers who deserve all the accolades. What matric teachers managed to achieve in the severely compromised teaching time of 2020 is something to behold,” he said.
National Teachers Union (Natu) general secretary Cynthia Barnes said the results were very good considering the difficulty the pupils had faced,.