The DA has rubbished the revealed 72.5% 2016 matric pass rate, and says that 44.6% of pupils in the 2016 cohort didn’t sit matric exams, leaving the real passrate at just over 40%.

Using data from the Department of Basic Education, the party says that 1 100 877 pupils enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014, but only 610 178 enrolled for Grade 12 in 2016, leaving behind 490 699 pupils who didn’t make it to matric last year.

“This means that 44.6% of learners either dropped out of the system altogether or remain stuck in Grade 10 and 11,” DA Gavin Davis, Shadow Minister of Basic Education said in a statement.

Below is a table Davis created showing the number of pupils in each province in grades 10 – 12 from 2014 to 2016.

The provinces are listed from highest to lowest “Dropout rate” – although as Davis suggests this will include learners who have been held back a year and not “progresssed”.

“It is possible to see from these figures how a fixation on the pass rate can mask the actual performance of the education system. This is because the pass rate is expressed as a percentage of the learners who wrote, and doesn’t take into consideration the learners who didn’t make it to matric,” Davis said.

The party further went on to rain on the Free State’s parade (the province had the highest pass rate for 2016 at 88.2%), by stating that its “real” pass rate is actually 42.7%, way behind the DA-led Western Cape’s (which was in first position in 2015) 57.7%.

“In other words, the Free State’s claim to be the best performing province (with a pass rate of 88,2% compared with the Western Cape’s 86,0%) is misleading. Any assessment of performance must take into account the number of learners retained in the system. It is clear that, in the Free State, relatively fewer learners make it to matric, which is why the pass rate was high this year,” Davis said.

Politics or money?

Of course, the DA may not be able to take full credit for the high “real” passrate in the Western Cape. The graph below shows the percentage of exam centres in each province grouped by their “quintile”. The quintiles indicate the relative wealth of schools, with five being the highest and one being the lowest. You can draw your own conclusions.

Davis said he has written to Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, to request an investigation into the high ‘drop-out’ rate and the causes behind it.

“We are sure that Minister Motshekga is as concerned as we are about the low numbers of learners making it to Grade 12 from Grade 10, and we call on her to investigate what is behind the large drop-out rate without delay,” he concluded.