Schools Not Holding Back Learners To Improve Matric Pass Rates

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Basic Education Minister is sure schools are not holding learners back to achieve higher matric pass rates. This comes after several questions were posed to the minister.

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The Department of Basic Education (DBE) wants to dispel the myth that schools are holding back underperforming learners from moving on to the next grade to improve matric pass rates. They point to several factors that contradict this claim.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga recently responded to a question in Parliament regarding the measures put in place by the DBE to monitor and stop learners being held back and/or coerced to drop out due to fears that their failure would influence the matric pass rate.

There is no such policy or action in the Department to hold children back or force learners out of school for good results. 

Motshekga says that no such policy exists and the reduction in the dropout rate dispels the myth that learners are being held back to artificially inflate matric pass rates. There is no such policy or action in the Department to hold children back or force learners out of school for good results.

The minister was also questioned about whether her department has investigated the cause of the rise in school dropouts.

Motshekga says the assumption that the dropout rate has increased is wrong, and departmental data indicates that the dropout rate is being reduced. On the contrary, the DBE's analysis of trends in the sector indicates that dropout rates (however defined) have been steadily reducing over the years.

The minister provided charts to show that completion rates for Grades 7, 9, and 12 have actually been going up over time. They added that a record number of students have enrolled for National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams over the last few years, with more and more students passing the school-leaving examinations.

During 2020 and 2021, there were concerns about the potential impact of pandemic-related disruptions on dropping out. 

However, Motshekga says it is now clear that school participation actually improved during the pandemic (with the exception of young children, where there was a slight increase in delayed entry into school).

They revealed that learners between 16-18 years old had higher attendance rates than before the pandemic, and the NSC examinations of 2020-2023 achieved all-time records for the numbers of candidates writing, the numbers of NSC passes, the numbers of Bachelor-level passes, and the pass rate.

It is therefore difficult to answer a question about how the department responded to an increase in dropout when, in fact, there has been no increase in dropping out.

Completion rates for Grade 7 (measured using 16-18-year-olds), Grade 9 (measured using 19-21-year-olds), and Grade 12 (measured using 22-25-year-olds) have been increasing over time. 

It should be noted that the slight decrease in Grades 9 and 12 completion rates in 2022 is likely not statistically significant and should not be interpreted as evidence of a declining trend. The clear trend over time is positive.

Suggested Article:

President Cyril Ramaphosa talking about school dropouts

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa believes all stakeholders have a part to play in reducing South Africa's high dropout rate. Ramaphosa was speaking at the Basic Education Sector Lekgotla Conference earlier this week. 

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