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South Africa's matric pass rate obscures dropout rate

South Africa’s Department of Basic Education recently released the pass rate for the country’s 2014 final matric exams. Education minister Angie Motshekga announced that 75.8% of pupils had passed, a drop of 2.4 percentage points from the previous year.

Africa Check has previously highlighted that the matric pass rate is not a reliable benchmark of education quality. One of the problems it obscures is the high dropout rate in the South African schooling system.

When the 2014 matrics started Grade two in 2004, there were 1,085,570 of them.  (Note: Grade 2 is used as a base year for comparison as the Grade 1 year is unusually large because of the high proportion of pupils that are held back.)

Between then and Grade 10, a total of 20,241 pupils dropped out. But the most significant drop occurred between Grade 10 in 2012 and the final exams in 2014, where more than half a million pupils left the system. Only 532,860 pupils remained to write their final matric exams

Some pupils drop out for economic, social and academic reasons but commentators have suggested that pupils may be pushed out by schools in an attempt to maintain higher pass rates.

The dropout rate has had a significant impact. A 2011 report revealed that “60% of youths are left with no qualification at all beyond the Grade 9 level”. 7/1/15

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