2012 Matriculation Results

 The National Department of Education apply a single standard for Matriculation Pass levels.

For those of you who are bemused by the assertions that a 30% pass level is adequate for Matriculation, the reality is slightly different, but not so much different.

As related by the IEB, the requirements are:

  • 40% for one official language (usually the student’s home language)
  • 40% for two other subjects
  • 30% for three other subjects

Whereas university entrance requires minimally that four of the above subjects be passed at 50% or more.

The IEB results were the first of the year.

They had more than 8700 candidates of whom 98.2% passed (up from the 98.15 of the previous year’s rate). All those who passed qualified for tertiary education and 83.6% qualified for university degree courses (up from the 81.67% of the previous year).

So by all accounts, the IEB are steadily gaining ground.

Information on the National Senior Certificate results is less encouraging.

The national pass rate is up from 70.2% in 2011 to 73.9%. This seems pretty good but so far the DDF have not found any meaningful analysis of the results and feel that a great deal more detail should be released. We do know that only 22% of the Matric passes qualified for university entrance. Compare that with the 84% of the IEB passes qualifying and there is a marked disparity.

64% of the NSC candidates passed maths, but at what level was that, 30% or 40%? At a 30% or 40% bar one should expect pass rates in the nineties. The same question needs to be asked about the 61% pass rate for science. True the results show improvements on the 2011 results but at what cost. There is talk of adjustments to the results to “mitigate fluctuations in learner performance that are a result of factors within the examination processes themselves rather than the knowledge, aptitude or abilities of learners” What exactly does that mean?

The press are going on about the inequalities evident from the results. Unequal access to resources, funding, school books, competent teachers, administrative support. All these topics are being bandied about as being critical to performance and results. Is there somehow a connection between those adjustments and those inequalities? We don’t know. We aren’t being told. 

There are other disparities, perhaps the largest, almost the elephant in the room, is that there are about 78 times the number if IEB candidates doing NSC exams. 8700 IEB candidates versus 623 897 NSC candidates. We think the point is that not all schools whose candidates write IEB are wealthy urban schools. Some are quite rural and quite poor, they just don’t follow the same path as their NSC fellows. Put another way, the IEB schools are getting it right far more often than the NSC schools, so there should be something to be learned from what the IEB schools are doing.

The other factor of concern is the drop-out rate. We don’t know what the IEB drop-out rate is (that is, what proportion of Grade one pupils reach and pass their Matric year) but it is generally agreed that only 50% of entry level students reach the NSC matric, and even then that only 50% of grade 11 students go forward to grade 12. Why is that? What is it about grade 12 that makes it almost unattainable to 50% of grade 11 students? Or is that the wrong question to ask? Perhaps it is simply that the average Grade 11 is not prepared adequately for Grade 12 and is not encouraged to go forward? We speculate here because one of the classic ways of ensuring an acceptable pass rate is to deny those likely to fail the opportunity to sit the exam. Put another way, if every Grade 11 was compelled to enter Grade 12 and sit the NSC exams, the pass rate might seem quite alarmingly low. So what is the reality?

Yet another factor is the success rate of the graduates of the different systems. The IEB university entrants have a +/- 90% chance of completing their degree course in the required minimum time-frame. We don’t know what the current statistics are for NSC graduates, but of the average 1st year entrants, only a very small percentage (perhaps as little as 10%) were said even to enter the last year of study, let alone graduate. This we relate from earlier years experiences. We would like to be wrong about this because it is a very alarming prospect, that so few graduate when the country is in dire need of educated and skilled graduates.

We know that the same pass rate is applied to both the IEB and the NSC exams but are we comparing apples with apples or apples with pears? The exams are not the same, the questions are not the same, markers and the standards are not the same. How can we compare these two systems?

This is the Direct Democracy Forum‘s principle gripe, that we don’t believe we can compare the two systems and the two sets of results so the impression that the NSC results are not lagging that far behind the IEB results is not verifiable from information provided and does not warrant an assumption of equivalence between the two systems.

The upshot of all this is that the DDF would like there to be a single set of national exams with a single set of questions for IEB and NSC students alike and a single syllabus underpinning those exams with any adjustments to the results “in order to mitigate fluctuations in learner performance” being applied equally and transparently to candidates for IEB and NSC exams alike. Then, we believe, we will have a basis of comparison that is meaningful and we can start addressing any educational deficiencies that are evident from an informed position. This is the DDF‘s starting position. 

How we get from where we are to where we need to be is a question that needs to be addressed by the education experts of our country rather than by the country’s politicians. The role of the politicians is to enable students and educators in their endeavours, nothing more and certainly nothing less. That basically is the DDF‘s position as stated in DDF education policies.

The buck stops at the ballot box

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