By Steuart Pennington

Cape Talk on Friday 10 Jan reports Prof Jonathan Jansen maintains that the matric pass rate is not a good indicator of the health of the education system. He says South Africa’s “real” matric pass rate is 39%.

Known as the cohort pass rate, it’s the percentage of learners who started grade 10 two years ago and passed their matric exams in 2019.

On Wednesday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that the matric class of 2019 has achieved a pass rate of 81.3%, up from 78.2% in 2018. We have a “system on the rise” she claimed.

While there’s been an improvement in SA’s overall matric results, Professor Jansen says 81.3% is a joke.

The education expert claims that the cohort pass rate, or even the Grade 2 throughput rate, paint a more accurate picture of the state of the education system as a whole.

He’s congratulated the pupils who passed but raised concerns about school dropout and repetition rates as well as poor maths comprehension.

A spokesperson for SAICA (SA Institute of Chartered Accountants) reports that the ‘pure’ maths pass rate is so low that it is a threat to the future of the accounting profession.

The fact that only half of the learners who enter school at Grade 2 end up writing matric in Grade 12 lessens the credibility of the DoE claims.

So, what are some of the numbers?


  • Candidates writing matric…………………………………………504 303 or 42% of intake of 2007
  • number of learners entering Grade 2……………..1 200 000
  • Number of learners achieving Bachelor passes…………….36.9% or 186 087
  • Of 6 834 Secondary schools with 100% pass rate…………929 or 13.5%
  • Of 6 834 with 0% pass rate ………18 schools or 0.26%
  • 2019 Learners completing ECD in 2007……………………….87.7%
  • 2019 learners joining vacation classes in build-up to matric…40%
  • 222 034 wrote mathematics (44%) of candidates……121 230 passed or 54.6% of those who wrote, but only 24% of all candidates, 35% scored above 40%, 2% achieved distinction.
  • 298 607 wrote maths literacy (59%) of candidates…….80% passed

Devil in the detail

 It is the fact that the 81.3% pass rate is the highest ever achieved, but a detailed analysis of the numbers is required to understand:

  • the quality of education that is being received by learners from when they enter school, not when they exit
  • how many learners who enter school in Grade 1 make it through to writing matric in Grade 12
  • how many of the candidates, having completed their matric, are eligible for some form of tertiary education
  • which teachers perform well in terms of curriculum results and which don’t
  • which schools perform well, and which don’t.

Only when we get to grips with these numbers and more will we be able to assess whether our education system is a “system on the rise”.