Matric 2013: Why the top two p

Matric 2013: Why the top two provinces are cheats

When the rural and relatively poor Free State and Northwest shot to the top of Matric rankings this year, many applauded: here was proof that wealth and density are no prerequisite for schooling success. But research shows that these provinces were also first and second on a sadder measure: losing about half of their Grade 10s before they sit Matric

Matric 2013: Why the top two p


In an in-depth article on Politicsweb, researchers James Myburgh says that the stars of this year’s Matric results – the Free State and North West – have achieved their first and second places, respectively, only by virtue of a massive drop out rate in Grade 10.

Myburgh presents statistics showing that 56.5 per cent of pupils in Grade 10 in North West never sit the Matric exam. They have fallen through the cracks of a provincial education system that Jackson Mthembu, ANC national spokesperson, called a ‘beacon of hope’  occupying ‘pride of place in our national schooling system’. The Northwest’s drop-out rate was also the highest, followed by none other than Free State Province (54.8 per cent). 

Although Myburgh mentions that Grade 10 is traditionally an especially difficult schooling year with a higher than usual number of learners being held back, the fact that half of a province’s schoolchildren vanish between one exam in Grade 10 and the other one in Grade 12 must give pause to those who have crowed to see powerhouse provinces like the Western Cape and Gauteng fall in the Matric rankings.

Indeed, as Myburgh shows, the opposition-run Western Cape education system has the lowest number of Grade 10 dropouts (35 per cent), followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng. Adjusted for this, the Western Cape had the highest number of Matric passes in 2013 (55.3 per cent) followed by Gauteng (49.4 per cent).

This does not mean that the education systems of rural, relatively poor provinces like Northwest and the Free State have eased out low-performers in pursuit of higher rankings. But it does mean that the Grade 10 drop-out rate must become a national conversation as a matter of urgency. It also means that it is dangerously misleading to celebrate the Matric results of a province that loses the academically weaker half of its prospective Matrics before the final exam can be written.

Indeed, with only one in four Matrics in our smartest province (the Western Cape) graded capable of attending a university, some might wonder that we are celebrating at all.

Read James Myburgh’s piece, “Matric 2013: Why the FState and NWest’s success is illusionary”, at

Read more: 

Matric 2013: are 78% of pupils truly ready to leave school?

Is racism alive and well at South African schools?

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