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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, Delivered at the Release of NSC Examination Results for 2017 held at SABC – Radio, Auckland Park, 04 January 2018

Good Evening Fellow South Africans!

Strategic direction in the basic education sector

Today, we are gathered here to announce the 2017 National Senior Certificate examination results.  The NSC examination results, are one of the most important barometers to evaluate progress made by Government in improving access, redress, equity, efficiency and the quality of teaching and learning outcomes, through the implementation of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework and the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NLSA).

As we implement our Medium-Term Strategic Framework and the NSLA, we have an obligation to ensure a seamless implementation of the regional, continental and international declarations, as well as the recommendations from regional and international assessment studies, in order to ensure that the critical principles of access, redress, equity, efficiency and quality, anchor our work, programmes, interventions, progress, and achievements.

Building a solid and foundation for teaching and learning

We should always remember at all times that if we have to further improve the outputs of the schooling system, we will have to continue to improve the fundamental quality of learning and teaching, well before Grade 12.

We have been informing the South African public that repetition and possible drop-out towards the end of secondary school, among others, arise from weak learning foundations.  Therefore, we must prioritise the improvement of the quality of learning and teaching in the early Grades, including Grade R, so as to ensure that learners are equipped with the skills needed to cope with the curriculum requirements of the higher Grades.

As we report on the Grade 12 examination results, it is important to also briefly reflect on the recent cycles of regional and international assessment studies, namely, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which report on performance in lower Grades, specifically Grades 4, 5, 6 and 9.

Results of the regional and international assessment benchmark studies

The results of these three international assessment studies show that the performance of South African learners is improving, though at varying degrees. The reality is that our basic education system has entered its Age of Hope.  More specifically –

  1. The PIRLS 2016 results, recently released on 05th  December 2017, showed that South African Grade 4 learners scored an average of 320 points in Reading Literacy in all eleven official languages; and that 78% of our Grade 4 learners could not meet the international reading benchmark of 400 points.  Our Grade 5 learners, who were tested in IsiZulu, Afrikaans and English, scored 406 points.  Both scores were lower that the PIRLS centre point of 500.

    The PIRLS 2016 report also showed that there has been a statistically significant improvement among Grade 4 learners in five African languages, namely, IsiNdebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga; and in 2016, a significantly larger number of Grade 4 learners, who wrote the test in Sesotho, scored above the minimum benchmark than observed in 2011.  Both Grade 4 and 5 learners in schools with libraries, obtained higher mean scores, than those in schools without libraries.

    There was a significant improvement in Grade 5 scores for English and Afrikaans, but a much significant improvement for isiZulu between 2006 and 2016.  In both Grades 4 and 5, the scores of girl-learners, were better than boys with each test cycle; and the gap is widening; and that the performance of second language learners at schools, where English is the language of instruction, is improving significantly.

  2. The SACMEQ IV (2013) results affirmed the upward trends of the previous studies; and showed that for the first time, South African learners at the Grade 6 level achieved Mathematics scores above the significant centre point of 500 points.  Grade 6 learners scored an average of 552 points in Mathematics, and 538 in Reading Literacy.  This represents an increase of 57 points in Mathematics, and 43 points in Reading Literacy from the respective achievement scores of the SACMEQ III (2007) – the largest gains among the Southern and Eastern African countries that participated in SACMEQ III and IV.  More importantly, the largest gains were evident within the historically disadvantaged sections of the school system.

     

  3. The TIMSS 2015 results, confirmed noteworthy growth patterns; which when compared with other countries since 2003 at the Grade 9 level, South Africa has shown the largest improvement of 87 points in Mathematics, and 90 points in Science.

    An analysis of the three regional and international assessment studies, conducted by our research team at the Department, shows the following –

  • the improvements noticeable in the 2006 and 2011 PIRLS results, equate to an average performance of our Grade 4 and 5 learners of one and half years of education – that is, an improvement equivalent to two Grades.  There was however, no noticeable improvement between PIRLS 2011 and 2016.
  • the largest gains observed in SACMEQ III and IV, administered in 2007 and 2013 respectively, equated to an improvement in the average performance of our Grade 6 learners of one and a quarter years of education – that is, an improvement equivalent to one Grade.
  • similarly, the largest gains observed in TIMMS 2011 and 2015, equated to an improvement in the overage performance of our Grade 9 learners of one and half years of education – that is, an improvement equivalent to two Grades.

This tells us that despite the fact that South Africa started at very low base in terms of both Literacy and Mathematics, the system tends to self-correct as the learners progress through the various Grades and Phases.  Hence, we will continue to use our own national assessments as well as the regional and international assessment studies, to gauge the extent of our mission i.e. improved learner outcomes throughout all key grades. We are mindful that progress in Literacy and Mathematics must continue to improve for all learners throughout the system irrespective of the geographical location of learners, poverty ranking of the school or resources available. Every child is a national asset.

 

2017 National Senior Certificate Examination Results

As we analyse the 2017 NSC examination results, we wish to remind the South African public about the main purpose of the National Senior Certificate examinations.  The primary purpose of the NSC examinations is to provide learners with an exit national qualification.  However, we are able to also glean from the results trends on the progress we are making as a country to provide access to an inclusive, equitable, quality and efficient basic education to our children.

We are increasingly prioritising interventions and policies that target an improved quality of learning and teaching, and implementing accountability systems to ensure that quality outcomes are achieved.  More specifically, we have deliberately prioritised Early Grade Literacy.  This is necessary, more so that we have to respond pointedly to the concerns raised in the PIRLS 2016, SACMEQ IV – 2013, and the TIMMS 2015 reports.

The effects of our interventions are beginning to result in improved teaching and learning outcomes.  We have reported that the skills of learners have steadily improved, according to rigorous and widely respected regional and international testing programmes.  Through deliberate and often ambitious policy shifts by Government, combined with the efforts and commitment of the thousands of people who work in our system, we are beginning to reap the benefits. Available scientific comparisons of the quality of learning outcomes over time indicate noteworthy improvements in recent years.

 

Profile:  Class of 2017

The Class of 2017 is the tenth cohort of learners to sit for the National Senior Certificate (NSC), and the fourth cohort to write CAPS-aligned NSC Examinations.  The Class of 2017 has recorded the third highest enrolment of Grade 12 learners in the history of the basic education system in South Africa.

The total number of candidates, who registered for the November 2017 NSC examinations was 802 431; comprising 629 155 full-time candidates, and 173 276 part-time candidates.  Of these candidates, 534 484 full-time candidates, and 117 223 part-time candidates, wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.  It is important to note some of the other features of the 2017 NSC examinations –

  • there has been a high degree of stability in the system, and the implementation of the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA) has also taken firm root;
  • the DBE has improved its data collection, data analysis, and data feedback processes;
  • provinces, districts and schools have heightened their efforts in implementing differentiated but specific learner support programmes; and the effect and impact of major learner support programmes are constantly measured and monitored;
  • the Class of 2017 had a selected group of progressed learners, based on strict pre-conditions for progression; and
  • New set-works, in all languages, were introduced during the 2017 school calendar year.

 

2017 NSC Examinations declared “incident free”

Fellow South Africans, I am also glad to announce that the Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, has declared the 2017 NSC examinations as “fair, valid and credible".  Umalusi declared that the 2017 NSC examinations were “largely incident free”, with a few minor disruptions in some parts of the country.  This, Umalusi said, is testament “to the success of the heightened vigilance and rigid measures put in place by the DBE”.

Performance of the progressed learners

The criteria for learner progression introduced in 2015, were further streamlined in 2017.  The South African public will recall the learner progression policy encouraged provinces to progress or condone over-aged learners who have repeated Grade 11 more than once, and give them extra support to sit for Grade 12 NSC examinations; or allow them to modularise their examinations.  In the latter case, progressed learners could write part of the 2017 NSC examinations in November 2017, and the rest in June 2018.

The support provided to progressed learners by provinces is important, particularly for learners who come from poorer communities.  You know that affluent communities arrange extra tuition for their children at extra costs.  Provinces on the other hand, go out of their way to provide progressed learners with extra support; and this, provinces do without any additional budget.

Consequently, in 2017 we saw the second largest number of progressed learners, since the policy was promulgated in 2015.  An analysis of the raw data on progressed learners paints an extremely interesting picture.

For the Class of 2017, we had 107 430 registered progressed learners, compared to 108 742 in 2016 and 65 673 progressed learners in 2015.  This is equivalent to a 1.2% decrease from the learners who were progressed in 2016; and a 65.6% increase from those who were progressed in 2015.

34 011 progressed learners wrote the requisite seven subjects during the 2017 NSC examinations.  The rest of the learners are modularising their examinations, as I had already explained earlier.  Of the progressed learners, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, 18 751 passed; which represents 55.1% of all progressed learners, and 4.7% of all learners who passed the 2017 NSC examinations.

Of the 18 751 progressed learners who passed the 2017 NSC examinations, 1 915 obtained Bachelor passes; 8 572 obtained Diploma passes; 8 249 obtained Higher Certificate passes; and 10 obtained NSC passes.  A total of 1 801 distinctions were attained by progressed learners, including distinctions in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics and Physical Science.

The significance of these achievements is that the 18 751 progressed learners who passed the 2017 NSC examinations – the would-be-high-school repeaters and dropouts if they were not progressed, now have a golden opportunity to access either universities or TVET Colleges.

This is a step in the right direction in the context of the National Development Plan which enjoins us to mediate the high drop-out and repetition rates of learners in the system. The NDP demands of us to maintain a retention rate of 90%, and to allow for an increase in the number of learners entering vocational and occupational pathways.  The Second Chance Matric Programme, the Learner Progression Policy, and the Incremental Introduction of the Three-Stream Model are means towards an end to address this NDP directive.

I wish to remind South Africans that the Second Chance Matric Programme and the Learner Progression Policy were introduced to redress the inequalities of the past by creating a conduit through which young people could be afforded a second chance in life. These policy instruments are designed to limit the number of young people who are 'Not in Education, Employment or Training' – the so-called NEETs.  The exceedingly high number of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) is of grave concern, both nationally as well as internationally. The NEETs are considered to be disengaged from both work and education.  These programmes were intended to improve the access and retention of learners in the system.

We wish to thank all provinces, especially Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal for the ‘package of support and intervention’ they gave to the progressed learners.  If these provinces did not do this, some of our young people could have fallen through the cracks of the system. We encourage the other provinces to take a leaf from these four provinces which supported the progressed learners to the extent necessary.

Learners with Special Education Needs

We strongly believe that an Inclusive Education system makes an immense contribution towards an inclusive economy to serve an inclusive society.  Providing learners with special education needs access to quality basic education programmes is an imperative, based on the Constitutional principles of equity and redress, among others.  We have for the past few years included the learners with special education needs in tracking learner performance in the NSC Examinations.

I am happy to announce that 2 777 learners with special education needs wrote the 2017 NSC examinations – an increase of 42.8% from 2016.  906 (equivalent to 32.6%) and 789 (equivalent to 28.4%) of these learners achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes, respectively.  307 (equivalent to 11.1%) obtained Higher Certificate passes; 2 achieved NSC passes; and 121 achieved endorsed NSC passes.

This means that 2 145 learners with special needs, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, passed – this is equivalent to 76.5% pass rate.  Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal should be congratulated for their combined contribution of Bachelor passes of 80.2% – an increase of 3.5% from that achieved in 2016; and the combined contribution of Diploma passes of 70.1% – an increase of 4.1% from that achieved in 2016.

Learners with special education needs achieved a total of 1 956 distinctions, including distinctions in the critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics and Physical Science.  The Western Cape’s contribution is the largest with 1 599 distinctions (equivalent to 81.7% of the total number).

The benefits of the “pro-poor” policies of Government on the Grade 12 examination results, with progressed learners included

In the 2017 NSC examination results, the poverty ranking of schools in terms quintiles 1 to 5, revealed the following interesting trends.  The NSC passes for quintiles 1 to 3 (“no fee” schools) combined, stand at 243 260; compared to 138 525 in quintiles 4 and 5 schools.

The Bachelor passes achieved by learners in “no fee” schools (quintiles 1 to 3) stand at 76 300 (compared to 78 878 in 2016); while fee paying schools (quintile 4 and 5) produced 67 867 Bachelor passes (compared to 73 810 in 2016).  This implies that in 2017, quintile 1 to 3 schools produced 53% of the Bachelor passes (compared to 52% in 2016), while quintiles 4 and 5 schools produced 47% Bachelor passes (compared to 48% in 2016).  The significance of this, is that the gap between the Bachelor passes produced by quintile 1 to 3 schools versus those produced by quintiles 4 and 5 schools in 2016 of 4%, has increased to 6% in 2017.

This is significant as the quintile 1 to 3 schools are incrementally producing more Bachelor passes – an unthinkable trend in the past.  For instance, research tells us that in 2005, 60% of the Bachelor passes came from the best performing 20% of the schooling system.

By 2015 however, the best performing 20% of the schooling system, only produced 49% of Bachelor passes.  In 2016, the Bachelor passes produced by the best performing 20% of the schooling system, had shrunk to 48%; and during the 2017 NSC examinations, the Bachelor passes produced by the best performing 20% of the schooling system, further shrunk to 47%.

The fact that in 2005, the 80% of the schooling system, could only produce about 40% of Bachelor passes which in 2015 had steadily improved to 51%, in 2016 to 52%, and in 2017 to 53%, points to the remarkable shift in the balance of forces.  In the past, Bachelor passes were sometimes used as a measure of inequality in the schooling system and society in general.

But from 2015 to date, greater equity was observed despite the reality that inequalities still remain in the system.  Government must be applauded for its pro-poor polices, which in the Basic Education arena, alleviate poverty through a variety of interventions.  Among others, it is worth mentioning the pro-poor funding of schools; the provision of nutritious meals on a daily basis; and the provision of scholar transport to deserving learners on daily basis.

These interventions, called the “social wage” by the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) have definitely improved access and retention of learners in schools thus promoting equity and quality immeasurably. This is definitely a good story to tell!!!

I should also mention that the number of learners in quintiles 1 to 3 schools who achieved Diploma and Higher Certificate passes during the 2017 NSC examinations follows a similar pattern to that of the Bachelor passes.  Since 2015 - quintile 1 to 3 schools continue to produce incomparable numbers of Diploma and Higher Certificate passes to those produced by quintile 4 and 5 schools.  These children, most of whom, come from poor socio-economic backgrounds, have been given a lifelong opportunity to improve their conditions and future lives.

What the 2017 NSC examination results are also telling us is the fact that, for every quintile 4 and 5 schools, which achieved at 60% to 79.9% pass rate, there are more than five quintile 1 to 3 schools achieving at the same level.  Similarly, for every quintile 4 and 5 school, achieving at the 80% to 100% pass rate, there are almost two quintile 1 to 3 schools achieving at the same pass rate.  An exact 100% pass rate was achieved equally by quintile 4 and 5 as well as quintile 1 to 3 schools.  A great story to tell indeed!!!

In February 2017, I tasked the National Education Evaluation Unit (NEEDU) to conduct a study on Schools that Work. The focus was on lifting the characteristics of both primary and secondary schools that work across the system.  The National Development Plan enjoins us to “recognise top-performing schools as national assets”.  It further directs that “the support of these schools should be enlisted to assist [in uplifting] underperforming schools”.  The Schools that Work study affirmed that there are schools that are doing exceptional work, and these schools include quintile 1 to 3 schools.

These are schools that consistently produce great results against all odds.  An example that has been identified is a quintile 1 school in Limpopo, which serves the poorest of the poor in that province.  This school achieves within the top 1.5% of all public schools, and performs better than 87% of the best resourced schools in the country.  There are similar schools that were identified in other provinces, which are universally serviced by teachers who go to extraordinary measures to help their learners to achieve, despite their circumstances.  These schools, principals, teachers, parents and learners are definitely our national assets, and their selfless efforts must never be allowed to go by unnoticed.

Learners receiving social grants

A total of 17 421 candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations are recipients of some form of social grants.  13 878 (equivalent to 79.7%) of these candidates passed the 2017 NSC examinations with 5 016 (equivalent to 28.8%) achieving Bachelor passes; 5 997 (equivalent to 34.4%) achieving Diploma passes; 2 863 (equivalent to 16.4%) achieving Higher Certificate passes; and 2 achieving NSC passes.  500 distinctions have been achieved, including distinctions in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, economics, Mathematics and Physical Science.  Gauteng, Limpopo, and the Western Cape, are the largest contributors with 357 distinctions (equivalent to 71.4%).

Clearly, the Government’s pro-poor policies have made an indelible contribution in these young people’s lives.  It is indisputable that without such assistance and support these young people could have been the lost generation of our time. We must commend the Department of Social Department for the “social wages” they provide to millions of our people.

Performance of the Districts

The National Development Plan recognises districts as a crucial interface of the basic education sector in identifying best practice, sharing information, and providing support to schools.  The continued growth in the performance of districts is closely monitored and evaluated by both the provincial and national education departments.  It is important to note that the Eastern Cape rationalised their number of districts from 23 to 12; which reduced the number of districts from 81 to 70 nationally.

In 2017, 66 of the 70 districts (94% of our districts) attained pass rates of 60% and above (compared to 67 of 81, i.e., 82.7% in 2016); and 31 of the 70 districts (44.3%) attained pass rates of 80% and above (compared to 31 of 81, i.e., 38.3% in 2016).

Regrettably, 4 of the 70 districts (5.7%) – two each in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, achieved pass rates lower than 60%.  For the first time, no district has performed below 50%.  Congratulations to the Eastern Cape for their rigorous interventions which pulled all their districts out of the dreadful 50% threshold; and reduced the number of districts which performed below 60% to 2 districts only.  These results indicate that provinces are putting the shoulder to the wheel to ensure quality and equitable teaching and learning outcomes across the system.

The top 10 performing districts in the country in the descending order with the progressed learners included are the following –

  • First, is Fezile Dabi in the Free State, with 90.2%;
  • Second, is Thabo Mafutsanyana in the Free State, with 90%;
  • Third, is Tshwane South in Gauteng, with 89.8%;
  • Fourth, is Ekurhuleni North in Gauteng, with 89.1%;
  • Fifth, is Tshwane North in Gauteng, with 88.9%;
  • Tied at sixth, are Gauteng West and Johannesburg West in Gauteng, with 88.6%;
  • Eighth, is Sedibeng East in Gauteng, with 87.9%;
  • Ninth, is Johannesburg East in Gauteng, with 87.8%; and
  • Tenth, is Overberg in the Western Cape, with 87.7%.

The top performing districts in their respective provinces in the ascending order with progressed learners included are as follows –

  • Nelson Mandela Metro in the Eastern Cape with 72.6%;
  • Vhembe in Limpopo with 76.6%;
  • Ehlanzeni in Mpumalanga with 76.8%;
  • UMgungundlovu in KwaZulu Natal with 81.5%;
  • Ngaka M Molema in the North West with 82.5%;
  • Namaqua in the Northern Cape with 83%;
  • Overberg in the Western Cape with 87.7%;
  • Tshwane South in Gauteng with 89.8%; and
  • Fezile Dabi in the Free State with 90.2%.

Performance of the Provinces

The Council of Education Ministers had agreed that the reporting on the NSC examination results, should first, exclude the performance of progressed learners; and second, include their performance.

First, a glimpse is given in an ascending order on how provinces performed, with progressed learners excluded

  • Eastern Cape attained 65.8%, an increase of 2.5% from the 63.3% achieved in 2016;
  • Limpopo attained 67.4%, a decline of 0.8% from the 68.2% achieved in 2016;
  • KwaZulu-Natal attained 73.6%, an increase of 4.1% from the 69.5% achieved in 2016;

  • Mpumalanga attained 76.6%, a decline of 4.7% from the 81.3% achieved in 2016;
  • Northern Cape attained 77.6%, a decline of 4.6% from 82.2% in 2016;
  • North West attained 82.1%, a decline of 4.1% from 86.2% achieved in 2016;
  • Western Cape attained 84.4%, a decline of 3.3% from 87.7% achieved in 2016;
  • Gauteng attained 86%, a decline of 1% from 87% achieved in 2016; and
  • Free State attained 89.8%, a decline of 3.4% from 93.2% achieved in 2016.

Unfortunately, during the 2017 NSC examinations, none of our provinces reached the 90% pass mark.  We must however, applaud the four provinces that retained their 80% plus pass status.

Now let me announce the results achieved by the provinces with progressed learners includedTwo provinces achieved below the 70% threshold, and these are –

  • Eastern Cape achieved 65%, improving from 59.3% achieved in 2016, an improvement of 5.7% – the second largest improvement in the country; and
  • Limpopo achieved 65.6%, up from 62.5% achieved in 2016, an improvement of 3.1%.
  • Four provinces achieved above 70%, and these are –
    • KwaZulu-Natal achieved 72.9%, improving from 66.4% achieved in 2016, an improvement of 6.5% – the largest improvement in the country.  Over the years, KZN has consistently registered the highest number of candidates in the NSC examinations; especially the highest participation rates of African learners in Mathematics.  Not surprisingly, KZN had the highest number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations; resulting in the largest number of Bachelor and Diploma passes.  This is a great story indeed!!
    • Mpumalanga achieved 74.8%, a decline of 2.3% from 77.1% achieved in 2016;
    • Northern Cape achieved 75.6%, declining from 78.7% achieved in 2016, a decline of 3.1%;
    • North West achieved 79.4%, declining from 82.5% in achieved 2016, a decline of 3.1%;
  • The following provinces achieved above 80%
    • Western Cape achieved 82.7%, declining from 85.9% in 2016, a decline of 3.2%;
    • Gauteng achieved 85.1%, the same pass rate as in 2016.  Gauteng registered the second highest number of candidates for the 2017 NSC examinations; and had the second highest number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.  One again, Gauteng recorded the second highest number of Bachelor and Diploma passes.
    • Finally, even with progressed learners included, the top performing province for 2017, is the Free State, which achieved 86.1%, down from 88.2% achieved in 2016, a decline of 2.1%.  Congratulation to MEC Tate Mekgoe and your team!!!

 

The 2017 NSC examination results with progressed learners dispel the myth that progressed learners adversely affect the overall results.  Certainly, this was not the case, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, and Limpopo.  In fact, in KwaZulu Natal, the results with progressed learners included, are better than those without the progressed learners.  We are hopeful that a new trend is emerging.

Effects of the three rural provinces

It must be noted that in the three most rural provinces namely, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, a combined total of 275 193 candidates wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.  This is equivalent to 51.5% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.  Remarkably, 189 195 (equivalent to 68.7%) of the candidates from the three rural provinces who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations passed – a whopping 21.1% improvement from the 47.6% achieved during the 2016 NSC examinations.  More remarkably, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo combined, produced 68 857 Bachelor passes (equivalent to 44.8%); which translates to almost 45 Bachelor passes per 100 produced anywhere else in the country.

Three years ago, we had declared that we would continue to pay particular attention to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo, so that we can improve the overall performance of our learners through the Grades.  The 21.1% improvement in these rural provinces is a clear indication that our package of support and interventions based on our National Strategy for Learner Attainment have begun to bear good fruit.  What we dare not do now is to drop the ball.

We must continue with our interventions so that at least the aggregate percentage attained in these rural provinces is at least the same as the national average or better.  We are definitely a system on the rise; and by raising the levels of teaching and learning outcomes in these three rural provinces, we are on our way to meeting our Constitutional obligations based on equity imperatives.

Overall national performance

This brings us to the 2017 NSC examination overall results.  For the past seven years, we have noted that the NSC pass rate has consistently been above the 70% threshold.  The Class of 2017 must be commended for maintaining this trend.  They are the third largest cohort in the history of basic education to sit for any NSC examination in the country.

With the Class of 2017 being one of the largest cohorts registered, a possibility existed that learner performance could drop.  But this did not happen – thanks to the dedication and commitment of teachers, governing bodies, parents, the South African society at large, the provincial education departments, and the Class of 2017 itself for rising to the challenge.

The 2017 NSC overall pass rate, with the progressed learners included, stands at 75.1%, a 2.6% improvement from the 72.5% achieved in 2016.  This, represents 401 435 candidates (including progressed learners), who had passed the 2017 NSC examinations.

However, with the progressed learners excluded, the 2017 NSC overall pass rate stands at 76.5%, a 0.3% improvement from the 76.2% achieved in 2016.  Well done to the Class of 2017!!!

Further analysis of the results show that –

  • the number of candidates qualifying for admission to Bachelor studies is 153 610, which represents 28.7% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations;
  • the number candidates, who passed with a Diploma is 161 333, which represents 30.2% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations;
  • the number of candidates who passed with Higher Certificates is 86 265, which represents 16.1% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations; and
  • The number of candidates who passed with a National Senior Certificate (NSC) is 99, which represents 0.02% of the total number of candidates who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.

It is important to note that a total of 314 943 candidates (equivalent to 78.5%), who achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes are eligible to register for studies at higher education institutions.  The 86 364 candidates (equivalent to 21.5%) who obtained certificate passes, may register at TVET Colleges and other skills training institutions.

It must be noted that since 2010, the basic education system has produced a total of about 1.2 million Bachelor passes.  If the country has to meet the skills demands projected by the NDP, it may be necessary for the country to track the whereabouts of these young people, and check on their skills profiles today.

In 2017, a total of 161 081 distinctions were achieved (compared to a total of 158 160 in 2016, and improvement of 1.8%).  The main contributors towards the distinctions achieved are KZN with 45 032; Gauteng with 36 044; Western Cape with 24 965; Limpopo with 15 260; and Eastern Cape with 14 492.  It is remarkable to note that the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo – the three rural provinces, produced a combined total of 74 784 distinctions (46.2% of the total distinctions).

In the 12 key subjects (including Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, and Physical Science among others), the total number of distinctions stands at 61 448, a decline of 5.7% from the 65 154 attained in 2016.  The number of distinctions attained specifically in the gateway subjects is as follows:

  • 5 040 distinctions in Accounting were achieved, compared to 6 576 in 2016, and 5 820 in 2015;
  • 6 726 distinctions were achieved in Mathematics, compared to 8 070 in 2016, and 7 791 in 2015; and
  • 7 861 distinctions were achieved in Physical Science, compared to 7 043 in 2016 and 5 903 in 2015.

Aggregation according to gender

There are 65 037 more girls than boys who enrolled for the 2017 NSC examinations (an increase of 14.7% from 2016); and there are 57 918 more girls than boys who actually wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.  Overall, there are 217 387 (a decline of 8.3% from 2016) compared 184 048 (a decline of 10.5% from 2016) who passed the 2017 NSC examinations.  When translated into percentages, 73.4% girls (an increase of 2.3% from 2016) and 77.2% boys (an increase of 2.9% from in 2016) passed the 2017 NSC examinations.

There are 84 516 female candidates who obtained Bachelor passes compared to 69 094 of their male counterparts. Some 84 134 female candidates obtained Diploma passes, compared to 77 199 of their male counterparts; 48 659 female candidates obtained Higher Certificate passes compared to 37 606 of their male counterparts; and 43 female candidates obtained NSC passes, compared to 56 of their male counterparts.  Therefore, there are 33 397 more female candidates, who achieved Bachelor, Diploma, Higher Certificates, and NSC passes, than their male counterparts.

This implies that there are 22 357 more female candidates, than their male counterparts, who are eligible for studies at higher education institutions; and 11 040 more female candidates than their male counterparts who are eligible for training at TVET Colleges or other skills development institutions.

62.6% of the 161 081 distinctions, were attained by female candidates, while their male counterparts attained 37.4% distinctions.  Therefore, there are 40 505 more female candidates than their male counterparts who passed with distinctions, including in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, and Physical Science.

Conclusion

Fellow South Africans, we will be the first to concede that despite the notable stability of and improvements in the system, we are yet to cross our own Rubicon.  We must agree that much has been achieved, but much more needs to be done in the area of efficiency and quality.  We call upon all South Africans to work together with us to move the public schooling to greater heights.

Once again, I take off my hat to the Class of 2017, and I wish them the best in their future.  I believe that you will continue to shine wherever you are.  Speaking of success, Madiba said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear; but the triumph over it.  The brave man (sic) is not he, who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

In celebrating the Class of 2017, I must also thank the principals, teachers, and parents for the work they continue to do.  What you do at the school level, is what matters the most.  The nation had put the future of our learners in your hands, and you delivered.  We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Oversight Committees (the Portfolio and Select Committees responsible for Basic education), the Deputy Minister, the MECs and the respective Heads of Departments for their stewardship, leadership and continued support.

I must thank the Director-General and his team of officials for their continued work and support.  Some of the officials forfeited their holidays and worked right through Christmas vacation in order to ensure that the announcement of the 2017 NSC examination results proceeds without glitches.

I must thank the principals, educators, and parents for the great work they continue to do in our schools.  What you do at the school level, is what matters the most.  The schools are at the coalface of basic education delivery.  The future of our learners, the prosperity and further development of our nation, is in your hands.  We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, I wish to thank our partners – teacher unions, governing body associations, our business partners working directly with us or through the NECT, our statutory bodies (such as Umalusi and SACE) researchers whose research work we cannot do without, our sister departments, ordinary South Africans, who together with us have made the stability and the improvement of the basic education sector their responsibility.  Finally, we wish to thank the SABC for hosting us this year.  Let me end by saying, the Governing Party was definitely correct in declaring education a societal matter.  Therefore, all hands must be on deck.

I thank you.

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Written By: DBE Webmaster
Date Posted: 1/5/2018
Number of Views: 1339

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