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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, Delivered at the Release of 2018 NSC Examination Results, held at Vodacom Dome, Noordwyk, Midrand, 03 January 2019

Good Evening Fellow South Africans!

Strategic direction in the basic education sector

Today, we are gathered here to announce the 2018 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results.  We are announcing the 2018 NSC examination results on the year in which South Africa will be celebrating its 25th anniversary of political freedom and democracy.  At the outset, I must say that the NSC examination results, are just one of the most important barometers to evaluate progress made by Government in improving access, redress, equity, inclusivity, efficiency and the quality of teaching and learning outcomes, through the strategic implementation of the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2030; the African Union Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA), 2025; the National Development Plan (NDP), 2030; the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NLSA), all articulated through our Action Plan to 2019:  Towards the Realisation of Schooling by 2030.

As we implement our Action Plan to 2019, we have an obligation to ensure a seamless implementation of the regional, continental and international declarations, as well as the recommendations from national, regional and international assessment studies, in order to ensure that the social justice principles of access, redress, equity, inclusivity, efficiency and quality, anchor our work, programmes, interventions, progress, and achievements.

Review of 25 years

Fellow South Africans, Dr Mokhubung Nkomo, once said “the future is embedded in the present, as the present bears imprints of the past”.  We must therefore be buoyed by the realisation that, as we grapple with the challenges of today, we should not lose sight of past, as we aim we to prepare our schools, our teachers, our parents and most importantly our learners for the forthcoming future, which require critical skills for a changing world, including the much touted but real Fourth Industrial Revolution.

South Africans must always remember that our education system was totally different from that offered twenty five (25) years ago.  There were nineteen (19) separate education departments for each racial and ethnic groupings prevalent during the abhorrent apartheid times.  This meant that the education system of the past, was resourced differently and unequally.  The geopolitical location of schools and the quality of school infrastructure; the learner to teacher, and learner to classroom ratios; the resourcing of schools in terms of funding, teacher provisioning – dominated by either unqualified or under-qualified teachers especially in the township and rural schools, the provisioning of learning and teaching support materials, among others, were skewed towards white schools.

During the dawn of democracy in South Africa, the priority of the first two Administrations, my predecessors under the leadership of His Excellency, President Rholihlala Mandela and His Excellency, President Thabo Mbeki, was to deal with the last bastion of apartheid – namely, the total deconstruction and destruction of the apartheid education system, starting with the unification of the nineteen (19) fragmented race- as well as ethnic-based education system into a single, unified, democratic education system in the country, which was based on a human rights culture.  Vast amounts of legislative and national policy frameworks were developed, with as broad consultation processes as was practicably possible.  This was done to ensure that the social justice principles of access, redress, equity, inclusivity and efficiency, anchor the solid foundation to deliver quality education to all South Africans.

Based on the dictates on the first White Paper on Education and Training, 1995; the second White Paper on the Organisation, Governance and Funding of Schools, 1996; the third White Paper on a Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education, 1997; the fourth White Paper on a  Programme for the Transformation of Further Education and Training, 1998; the fifth White Paper on Early Childhood Development, 2001; the sixth White Paper on Special Needs Education:  Building an Inclusive Education and Training System; and the seventh White Paper on e-Education:  Transforming Learning and Teaching through Information and Communication Technologies, 2001, the first two administrations spearheaded amongst others, the development of the following transformative and democratic legislations:

  • the National Education Policy Act, 1996;
  • the South African Schools Act, 1996;
  • the Higher Education Act, 1997;
  • the Employment of Educators Act, 1998;
  • the Further Education and Training Act, 1998; and
  • the Adult Basic Education and Training Act, 2000.

The Education White Papers and the national legislation I have just mentioned, particularly in the Basic Education Sector, created the platform for the critical educational reforms – amongst others, the complete overhaul of the curriculum, the creation of a pro-poor financing of the education system, a deliberate focus on upgrading and reskilling of our teachers; and the development of plethora of national policies on a variety of Basic Education imperatives.

It was during the late nineties and early 2000s that the radical transformation agenda of the Ruling Party bore immediate fruit in our schooling system.  The result of all of these reforms and developments over the past 25 years, is that educational outcomes have improved on virtually all measures.  For instance –

  1. On access

     

  • participation in educational institutions among the 5 year-olds, has increased from 40% in 2002 to nearly 90% recently; among the 7-13 year-olds, has increased from 98.1% in 2006 to nearly 99% recently; and among the 14-18 year-olds, has increased from 82.4% in 2006 to more than 85% recently;
     
  • the out-of-school 7 to 15 year-olds, has reduced from more than 300 000 in 2002 to about 100 000 recently; the out-of-school 7 to 18 year-olds, has reduced from more than 800 000 in 2002 to about 550 000 recently; and the out-of-school 16 to 18 year-olds, has reduced from more than 490 000 to about 450 000 recently;
     
  • participation in educational institution among 7 to 15 year-olds with disabilities range from minima of about 60% in KwaZulu Natal and 90% in the Free State in 2002, to maxima of 85% in KwaZulu Natal an 99% in Mpumalanga recently
  • grade repeater rates were observed to be stark between Grades 9 and 12, peaking in Grade 10.  Grade 10 repeater rates, had increased from 17.1% in 2009 to 24.5% in 2013; but reduced substantively to 20.4% in 2015.  Similarly, Grade 12 repeater rates, had increased from 8.3% in 2009 to 10.9% in 2011; but reduced substantively to 7.6% in 2015.

  • recent reports indicate that access to the 50-60 million workbooks developed by the DBE for Grade R to 9, stands between 96.5% in Grade 1 to 97.4% for Grade 9; while textbook coverage stands between 98.6% in Grade 10 and 97.7% for Grade 12; and

  • complaints pertaining to lack of textbooks in schools, has decreased significantly from 20.3% in 2002 to 4.3% recently.

     

  1. On redress

     

  • the responsibility for feeding children at schools was shifted from the Department of Health to the Department of Education in 2004, resulting in the expansion of the National School Nutrition Programme to currently reach over 9 million learners receiving nutritious meals, every day;
  • the introduction of the “no-fee” school policy in 2006, has resulted in about 9.5 million children from financially constrained households not paying school fees in 20 965 “no fee” schools; and
  • learner or scholar transport, which targeted more than 480 000 learners in 2017/18, was actually provided to more than 499 000 needy learners with the same financial year.

     

  1. On equity

     

  • gender parity for the 7 to 13 year-olds as well as the 14-18 year-olds, has equalised between 2002 and recently;

     

  • more females than males reach Grade 12, but once in Grade 12, males have higher pass rates, while in term of overall results, more females pass Grade 12 than their male counterparts; and

     

From 2011 to date, there are persistent equity challenges with regard to population groups and socio-economic status.

In addition, the DBE, with the cooperation of the Departments of Health as well as Social Development, runs numerous health promotion programmes to ensure that our children are screened for visual and hearing impairments, have access to and practise good sanitation, are provided with the much-needed psycho-social services, and are educated about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Support for learners with special educational needs has also been increasing in conformance with the social justice principle of inclusivity.  By 2017, nearly 80% of schools had at least one teacher who had received training in supporting children with special educational needs.  The development of curricula and support materials for learners with special needs, has also progressed in leaps and bounds.  Textbooks and workbooks have been adapted into Braille, and toolkits and assistive devices have been provided to schools for children with visual impairments.

There has also been a major emphasis on increasing the amount and quality of learning and teaching support materials.  The DBE Workbooks programme, has dramatically changed the amount and quality of text that children engage with on a daily basis around the country.  More recently, a lot of work has been done to digitise the workbooks and high-usage textbooks – something, which is sure to bear good fruit in the coming years, as new educational technologies become more widespread in our schools.

I have already indicated that we have developed a credible outcomes-based planning system within the Basic Education Sector, incorporating into our plans the dictates of the NDP, the AU’s CESA and the UNESCO’s SDGs.

Recognising that the education of our children is the responsibility of all of us, we have built effective partnerships with numerous organisations working in the education space – with local and international donors and partners, with organised labour, with the national associations on school governance, and with the private sector.  The work being coordinated through the National Education Collaboration Trust (the NECT) in thousands of our schools, demonstrates the potential we have as a nation to mobilise everyone to ensure that and efficient and quality education system is delivered – His Excellency, President Cyril Rampahosa’s “Thuma Mina” clarion call is heard and acted upon.

Today, I can therefore confidently say without fear or favour that the direct impact of all pro-poor policies on households, has been substantial.  Poverty has become less of a barrier to educational participation; but also schooling has become less of a burden on a number households.  However, of course, the biggest way that the schooling system can fight poverty and promote transformation, is through providing quality learning experiences that equip children with the skills needed for a fast changing world.

Skills and competencies for a changing world

The last ten years, have seen greater stability in the education system, especially with the introduction of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements, popularly known as the CAPS curriculum.  The CAPS curriculum has led to sustained improvements in the learning outcomes, which surpassed the glass ceiling of 70% pass rate in recent NSC examinations.  It is not surprising that the research conducted by the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, one of the leading think-tanks in the world, found that embedded in the CAPS curriculum, are skills and competencies for a changing world.  Such skills and competencies include, but are not limited to critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration and team work, communication and information literacy, as well as social justice and human rights.

We have since diversified the CAPS curriculum into three streams so that our learners are adequately equipped with the requisite skills and competencies for a changing world.  We were also responding to the directive of the NDP to increase the number of appropriately qualified artisans produced by the country by 2030.  The three-stream curriculum model, includes, the Academic stream, the Technical-Vocational stream, and the Technical-Occupational stream.

The three-stream curriculum model is definitely a step in the right direction, resulting in the Class of 2018 sitting amongst others, for a cluster of three Technologies, namely the Civil Technology, comprising Civil Service, Construction, and Woodworking; the Mechanical Technology, comprising Automotive Fitting and Machining, Welding, and Metalwork; and Electrical Technology, comprising Electronics, Digital Systems, and Power Systems.  In addition, the Class of 2018 also wrote two new subjects, namely Technical Mathematics and Technical Science.

We have taken this approach because a research study conducted at Oxford University, revealed that 45% of the current jobs, will disappear within the next 10 to 20 years; with a majority of the jobs or some of the functions being completely automated, and only a fraction of the current skills needed.  UNESCO on the other hand, indicates that 65% of the current jobs will not exist in 15 to 20 years.

Therefore, the need for the Basic Education Sector to refocus the curriculum towards a competence‐based approach, integrating the 21st century skills and competencies across the subjects; and the introduction of new subjects and programmes that are responsive to the demands of the changing world, are inescapable.

The current debates in our country, are influenced by the need to tackle the country’s glaring inequalities and the legacy of apartheid.  In his inaugural 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA), His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the need to harness technological change to advance radical economic transformation, which is defined as the “Government’s programme, which focuses on placing the economy on a qualitatively different path that ensures more rapid, sustainable growth, higher investment, increased employment, reduced inequality and deracialisation of the economy”.

This is to be achieved through, in particular, employment-generating investments in productive infrastructure which address spatial imbalances, a shift to the ‘green economy’, greater competitiveness, broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) initiatives, the elimination of unnecessary regulatory burdens, and skills development.  The schooling system needs to make optimal use of emerging technologies to strengthen teaching and learning, but also needs to consider how learners can be better prepared for technological change in society, and to help bring about radical economic transformation.

His Excellency, the President also underlined that “young people [should] be exposed to the world of work through internships, apprenticeships, mentorship and entrepreneurship”.  Some of this, should start already in school.  Moreover, he reiterated that “the growth of our economy will be sustained by small businesses”, a position that underlines the importance of entrepreneurial thinking and financial literacy.

An influential 2016 UNESCO Guide titled “Guiding principles for learning in the twenty-first century” expressed the need as follows: “…there is increasing understanding that new areas of knowledge, competences, and behaviours need to be integrated into curricula, if young people are going to function well in an increasingly complex global society.  In the future, they may be faced with enormous challenges associated with poverty, overpopulation, and declining bio-capacity”.  The UNESCO Guide also acknowledges that while the need is widely recognised, how exactly to adapt school curricula is much debated.  It emphasises embracing basic principles that everyone can agree on.  The principles put forward in the guide cover four core areas: knowledge, competencies, attitudes and broad approaches to learning.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), which brings together leaders in the public and private sectors across the world, has expressed the need in terms of preparing youths for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  A WEF Report titled “Realising Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” underlines the need for “digital fluency” – learners should become more knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the systems they deal with on a daily basis, such as social media; but should also understand their impact in beneficial and sometimes harmful ways on society.

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.  Therefore, the success of any examination, is a reflection of the hard work put in by teachers, learners, parents, and communities of trust, not only during the year of the examination, but throughout the twelve years of schooling.  In fact, research shows that the early years of learning to read, write, and compute, translate into positive results and outcomes later in the schooling years.

We also know that the main driver of economic inequality in our society, is unequal access to well-paying job opportunities, which is determined by educational outcomes.  This means that the best way to work towards meaningful social and economic transformation in our country, is to improve the learning foundations of our children, especially of those children in less affluent communities and in the deep rural areas.

This is something that we recognise as Government, and we are making it our priority to improve the foundational skills of our children’s early Grade literacy and numeracy skills.  We believe that it is important for our children to learn to read in their home language, as well as to build their vocabulary in an additional language from Grade 1.  For most children, English is the first additional language.  We also believe that it is important for all South Africans to learn at least one of the indigenous African languages.  These priorities are increasingly being reflected in policy; in investment into the development of appropriate learning and teaching support materials in all languages; and in special support programmes to empower teachers, who are responsible for these learning areas.

A lot is happening already.  The Read to Lead Campaign has been mobilising learners, teachers and communities around the importance of reading.  The Primary School Reading Improvement Programme has been expanding in the numbers of schools that it is supporting, with quality learning materials designed to enrich classroom learning experiences in the early Grades.  The Early Grade Reading Study has led to the development of a Reading Improvement Plan with clear steps to improve the support given to teachers, based on evidence of what works.  The National Education Collaboration Trust has set up a National Reading Coalition to bring together, and guide all our efforts to improving reading in the nation.

At the basic education level, the modernisation of the classroom has become a phenomenon of the global society.  Teaching approaches are beginning to change in all countries, especially leading countries in education, such as Finland and Singapore.  In response to the demand of the 21st century skills, the DBE, in partnership with UNICEF, the LEGO Foundation, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), is currently implementing an initiative that focuses on the role of PLAY-based learning in improving the quality of early Grade learning, under the auspices of Power of PLAY: A Learning Tool for a Powerful Future Programme.

An International Africa PLAY Conference will be hosted in Pretoria sometime in February this year.  Among the key objectives of the Conference is the facilitation of an understanding and commitment of policy-makers and influencers on the important role of PLAY-based learning in preparing children for the opportunities of the 21st century, and the achievement of sustainable development of a national and global level.

In the next Medium Term Expenditure Framework, critical leverage must be placed on working harder, and establishing greater system efficiencies in the first five years of schooling, building a comprehensive strategy that matches the international standards prescribed as minimum benchmarks for reading comprehension, mathematics and science, and further improving the access and quality of special needs and inclusive education.  Notwithstanding systemic progress in the Sector, we have to find effective teacher development strategies to improve the basic and applied skills of learners in reading with understanding, solving routine and complex mathematics problems, and applying scientific concepts.

Fellow South Africans, 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 (SEACMEQ), and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which report on performance in lower Grades, specifically Grades 4, 5, 6 and 9.

Regional and international assessment benchmark studies

At the heart of development in the schooling sector must be obviously be what learners learn.  This is made clear in the NDP and the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals.  It continues to be of great significance for South Africa’s development that learning outcomes, according to several reliable standardised testing programmes, have continued to improve.

During the announcement of the 2017 NSC examination results, I indicated the improvements in the performance – though at varying degrees – of South African learners, as reported by the three regional and international assessment studies, namely the TIMSS, the PIRLS, and the SEACMEQ.  The reality is that our basic education system has entered its Age of Hope.

An analysis of the three regional and international assessment studies, conducted by our research team at the DBE, 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; that is, improved learner outcomes throughout all key Grades.  We are mindful of the fact that progress in Literacy and Mathematics must continue to improve for all learners throughout the system, irrespective of the geographical location and poverty ranking of the schools, especially available resources.  Every child must be viewed as a national asset.

The 2018 National Senior Certificate Examinations Results

On the occasion of releasing the 2018 National Senior Certificate examination results, it is worth remembering that it was only since 2008, that we have had a unified and standardised examination system, where all examination papers were set nationally, and quality assured by Umalusi.  Pre-1994 however, the examination system was administered by nineteen (19) fragmented apartheid education departments; thereafter, the system evolved from one, where each province set its own papers, and gradually the responsibilities were shifted to the national level.

Turning to the Grade 12 examination results, the pass rate is but one of many indicators tracking trends at this level.  Government’s Medium-Term Strategic Framework, which is based on the NDP, emphasises the aim of getting all young people to obtain a National Senior Certificate or an equivalent qualification; either from a school or TVET institution.  The MTSF also emphasises the attainment of a National Senior Certificate, which allows for Bachelors-level studies at a university; and obtaining a mark of at least 50% in Mathematics and Physical Science.  In the case of Mathematics, the 50% threshold, is the lowest threshold applied for entry into Mathematically-oriented university programmes, such as Accounting and Economics.

As we analyse the 2018 NSC examination results, we wish to remind the South African public that 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 the 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 and numeracy programmes.  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 show improved 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.

Umalusi declared that the 2018 NSC examinations went smoothly without any systemic irregularities

Fellow South Africans, I must say that the standardisation of the 2018 NSC examination results by Umalusi, our Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, had to go through a rigorous process, which among others included the submission of the mid-term report to Umalusi on the performance of the Class of 2018; the Director-General’s inputs from Chief Markers and Internal Moderators; the presentation of Evidence-based report; and a variety of strategic meetings focusing on the standardisation of the entire examination process.

Umalusi standardises the NSC examination results “with the aim to achieve equivalence in the standard of examination across the years, subjects and assessment bodies”; and has thus declared that “there was a marked improvement in the overall quality of question papers across assessment bodies”.  By the way, standardisation is as old as education and assessment.  It is a phenomenon applied internationally, especially by all countries who deal with large scale national examinations.  In the case of the National Senior Certificate examinations, the mandate and responsibility to carry this out, vests solely with Umalusi as the ultimate authority in this regard

I am delighted to announce that Umalusi has declared the 2018 NSC examinations as “fair, valid and credible”.  Umalusi declared that the 2018 NSC examination “went smoothly without any systemic irregularities”; but noted the few minor disruptions in some parts of the country, which were “picked up and subsequently reconciled”.  This, Umalusi said, is testament “to the success of the heightened vigilance and rigid measures put in place by the DBE”.

Profile:  Class of 2018

The Class of 2018 is the eleventh cohort of learners to sit for the National Senior Certificate (NSC), and the fifth cohort to be exposed to the CAPS curriculum.  The Class of 2018 has recorded the fourth highest enrolment of full-time candidates, and the second highest for the part-time candidates in the history of the Basic Education system in South Africa.

The total number of candidates, who registered for the November 2018 NSC examinations was 800 843 (compared to 802 431 in 2017); comprising 624 733 full-time candidates (compared to 629 155 in 2017), and 176 110 part-time candidates (compared to 173 276 in 2017).  More significantly, is that 46.2% of these candidates are 16-20 year-old girls; and 34% of 16-20 year-old boys.  Also important to note, is the fact that 8.8% of the girls and 10.6% of the boys, who sat for the 2018 NSC examination, were 21-26 years of age – a clear indication of multiple attempts at achieving a National Senior Certificate.

Of these candidates, 512 735 full-time candidates (compared to 534 484 in 2017), and 117 661 part-time candidates (compared to 117 223 in 2017), actually wrote all seven subjects of the 2018 NSC examinations.  It is noteworthy that KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape registered the highest numbers full-time and part-time candidates.

Fellow South Africans, the scope and size of the 2018 NSC examinations, is the second largest enterprise to the National General Elections in the country.  For instance, 147 question papers were set; 8 million question papers were printed; 7.6 million scripts were produced and delivered countrywide; 6 888 secure examination centres were established; 65 000 invigilators, and 41 000 markers were appointed in 141 secure marking centres.

Some of the other features of the 2018 NSC examinations are as follows –

  • there has been a high degree of stability in the system, and the implementation of the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA) has taken firm root, resulting in the standard and quality of the public examinations, are maturing, and higher standards are being phased in;
  • the DBE has improved its data collection, data analysis, and data feedback processes;
  • most poignantly, 61.7% and 84.6% of the Class of 2018, were 5 year-olds and 6 year-olds respectively, who went through Early Childhood Development (ECD) in 2006.  The foundations for lifelong learning these young ones were exposed to, included language, motor skills, perceptual skills, problem-solving, basic numeracy, self-regulation, executive functioning and the love for learning;

  • 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 2018 is the first to be introduced to twelve (12) new subject offerings, comprising –

  • the South African Sign Language (Home Language), written by 52 candidates; as well as

  • Civil Technologies, Mechanical Technologies, and Electrical Technologies – each with three subjects; as well as Technical Mathematics and Technical Science, written by 41 999 candidates;

  • the Class of 2018 had the highest number of progressed learners, who were selected on the basis of strict pre-conditions for progression;

  • the outputs of the Class of 2018 is predicated on policy imperatives, such as the policy on progression, the policy on Multiple Examinations Opportunity (MEO), the introduction of the South African Sign Language as Home Language, the introduction of eleven specialisation in technology subjects, and the abolishment of the designated list of subjects; and

  • The raw marks of more than 60% of the subjects written by the Class of 2018 written, were accepted by Umalusi. This shows that efforts by our teachers to strengthen school-based assessment are working.

 

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 either write all seven subjects of 2018 NSC examinations; or allow them to modularise their examinations.  In the latter case, progressed learners could write part of the 2018 NSC examinations in November 2018, and the rest in June 2019.

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 2018 we saw the 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 2018, we had 128 634 registered progressed learners, (compared to 107 430 in 2017; and 108 742 in 2016).  This is equivalent to a 19.7% increase from the learners who were progressed in 2017; and an 18.3% increase from those who were progressed in 2016.

33 412 progressed learners wrote the requisite seven subjects during the 2018 NSC examinations (compared to 34 011 in 2017).  The rest of the learners are modularising their examinations, as I had already explained earlier.  Of the progressed learners, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations, 20 122 passed (compared to 18 751 in 2017); which represents 60.2% of progressed learners who wrote all seven subjects of the 2018 NSC examinations; and 5% of all learners who passed the 2018 NSC examinations.

Of the 20 122 progressed learners who passed the 2018 NSC examinations (compared to 18 751 in 2017), 2 676 obtained Bachelor passes (compared to 1 915 in 2017); 8 685 obtained Diploma passes (compared to 8 572 in 2017); 8 739 obtained Higher Certificate (compared to 8 249 in 2017); and 10 obtained NSC passes (compared to 10 in 2017).  A total of 2 131 distinctions were attained by progressed learners, including distinctions in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics and Physical Science (compared to 1 801 in 2017).

The significance of these achievements is that the 20 122 progressed learners who passed the 2018 NSC examinations (compared to 18 751 in 2017) – 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 Basic Education 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, the Incremental Introduction of the Three-Stream Model, and the Multiple Examinations Opportunity (MEO) 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 and internationally.  The NEETs are considered to be disengaged from both work and education.  These programmes are intended to improve the access and retention of learners in the system.

We wish to thank all provinces, especially Gauteng – achieved 70.3% passes; Free State – achieved 65.2% passes; Mpumalanga – achieved 64.7% passes; KwaZulu Natal – achieved 63.4% passes; North West – achieved 56.9% passes; and the Eastern Cape – achieved 56.5% passes for the ‘package of support and interventions’ 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 Northern Cape and the Western Cape to take a leaf from these seven 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, inclusivity 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 3 856 learners with special education needs wrote the 2017 NSC examinations (compared to 2 777 in 2017) – an increase of 39.9% from 2017.  1 669 (compared to 906 in 2017), and 861 (compared to 789 in 2017) of these learners achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes, respectively.  402 (compared to 307 in 2017) obtained Higher Certificate passes; 119 (compared to 2 in 2017) achieved endorsed NSC passes.

This means that 3 051 learners with special needs, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations, passed (compared to 2 125 in 2017); which is equivalent to 79.1% pass rate (compared to 76.5% in 2017).  Learners with special education needs achieved a total of 1 972 distinctions (compared to 1 1 60 in 2017), 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 1 470 distinctions (equivalent to 76.3% of the total number of distinctions).

The benefits of the “pro-poor” policies of Government on the Grade 12 examination results

In the 2018 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 241 340 (compared to 243 354 in 2017); and the passes for quintiles 4 and 5 (fee-paying) schools combined stand at 140 036 (compared to 138 528 in 2017).

The Bachelor passes achieved by learners in “no fee” schools stand at 84 700 (compared to 76 300 in 2017); while fee-paying schools produced 76 599 Bachelor passes (compared to 67 867 in 2017).  This implies that in 2018, quintile 1 to 3 schools produced 53% of the Bachelor passes (the same as in 2017), while quintiles 4 and 5 schools produced 47% Bachelor passes (the same as in 2017).  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 has significantly and progressively increased from 4% in 2016, to 6% in 2017 and 2018.

This is significant, as the quintile 1 to 3 schools are incrementally producing more Bachelor passes than their quintile 4 and 5 counterparts – 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.  This implies that the 80% of the schooling system only produced 40% of the Bachelor passes in 2005.  However, with the introduction of a pro-poor financing of the education system, in 2015, the best resourced 40% (quintile 4 and 5) of the schooling system, only produced 49% of Bachelor passes; while the 60% (quintiles 1 to 3) of the “no fee” schools, produced 51% of the Bachelor passes.  In 2016, the number of Bachelor passes produced by the 40% of the best resourced schools, had shrunk to 48%, and to a further 47% in 2017 and 2018.  The picture in the 60% of the “no fee” schools, had improved to 52% in 2016, as well as 53% in 2017 and 2018.

I should also mention that the number of learners in quintiles 1 to 3 schools, who achieved Diploma and Higher Certificate passes during the 2018 NSC examinations follows a similar pattern to that of the Bachelor passes.  91 406 Diploma passes were achieved by quintile 1 to 3, versus the 44 223 Diploma passes, which were achieved by quintile 4 and 5 schools; as well as 65 128 Higher Certificate passes achieved by quintile 1 to 3 schools, versus the 19 147 Higher Certificate, which were achieved by quintile 4 and 5 schools.

If we compute the Bachelor and Diploma passes achieved by quintile 1 to 3 schools during the 2019 NSC examinations, to those achieved by quintile 4 and 5 schools, we observe that there will be 55 284 more candidates from “no fee” township, rural and farm schools, who are eligible to register for Bachelor and Diploma studies at higher education and training institutions.  What a remarkable story – a culmination of 25 years of the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of our democratic legislation, national policies and strategic  programme and plans – indeed the radically transformative agenda of the governing party!!

Also remarkably, the 2018 NSC examination results are telling us that, for every quintile 4 and 5 school, which achieved at 60% to 79.9% pass rate, there are almost six 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 exactly two quintile 1 to 3 schools achieving at the same pass rate.  For every quintile 4 and 5 school achieving at exactly 100% pass rate, there are more than one quintile 1 to 3 schools achieving at the same level.  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, their principals, teachers, parents and learners are definitely our national assets, and their selfless efforts must never be allowed to go by unnoticed.

Fellow South Africans, while as from 2015 to date, greater equity can be observed, inequalities still remain in the system.  Government must however 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, which are called the “social wage” by the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), have definitely improved access and retention of learners in schools; thus simultaneously promoting equity and quality immeasurably.  This, is indeed a good story to tell!!

Learners receiving social grants

The profile of the total of 460 560 candidates, who comprised 78 612 active and 381 948 inactive social grant beneficiaries, can be summarised as follows –

  • About 93% of these candidates were Black-Africans, and 7% were either Coloured, Indian or White South Africans;
  • 76.9% of the active grant recipients, and 79.3% of the inactive grant beneficiaries were enrolled in “no fee” schools (quintile 1 to 3 schools), while 21.2% of the active grant recipients and 18.3% of the inactive grant beneficiaries were enrolled in fee-paying schools (quintile 4 and 5 schools);
  • 56.1% of the social grant beneficiaries who enrolled for the 2018 NSC examinations, were female candidates; while 43.9% were male candidates; and
  • 25.9% of these candidates were in KwaZulu-Natal; 17.5% in Limpopo; 13.9% in the Eastern Cape, and 13.9% in Gauteng – a total of 71.2% of these candidates in these four provinces

By the way, the active social grant recipients are South African young people who could be younger than 18 years, who are either recipients of the Care Dependency Grant, or the Child Support Grant, or a combination of the two, or the Disability Grant, or the Foster Care Grant, or the Grant-in-Aid, or the Old Age Grant.  On the other hand, the inactive social grant beneficiaries are South Africans who could be older than 18 years, or have graduated from receiving social grants because of their improved socio-economic conditions, or are supported by a member of the family who is a grant recipient.  The social grants available to inactive social grant beneficiaries are limited to the Care Dependency Grant, the Child Support Grant, or a combination of the two, and the Foster Care Grant.

59 129 of the 73 798 active social grant recipients who wrote the requisite seven subjects, passed the 2018 NSC examinations.  27 573 achieved Bachelor passes; 20 414 achieved Diploma passes; 11 122 achieved Higher Certificate passes and only 8 achieved NSC passes.  38 772 of the active social grant beneficiaries, who were female candidates, and 20 357 of the active social grant beneficiaries, who were male candidates, passed the 2018 NSC examinations.

216 313 of the 379 641 inactive social grant recipients who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations, passed the 2018 NSC examinations.  72 932 of these inactive social grant beneficiaries achieved Bachelor passes; 84 833 achieved Diploma passes; 58 432 achieved passes; 86 achieved NSC passes.  114 763 of the inactive social grant recipients, who were female candidates, and 102 017 of the inactive social grant beneficiaries who were male candidates, passed the 2018 NSC examinations

31 354 distinctions have been achieved, including distinctions in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, economics, Mathematics and Physical Science.  KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape, are the largest contributors with 25 297 distinctions.

Fellow South Africans, what needs to be understood is that without, what StatsSA calls the “social wage”, which is financial support provided to the poorest of the poor South African households, the active and inactive social grant beneficiaries would have been deprived a golden opportunity to improve their lives for the better.  The positive impact of the social wage to the 2018 NSC examinations is as follows –

  • 73.2% of the 629 155 candidates who enrolled for the 2018 NSC examinations, were social grant beneficiaries;
  • 88.4% of the candidates who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations, were social grant beneficiaries;
  • 68.7% of the candidates who passed the 2018 NSC examinations, were social grant beneficiaries;
  • 58.4% of the Bachelor passes, 74.3% of the Diploma passes, 80.1% of the Higher Certificate passes were attained by social grant beneficiaries;
  • 94.9% of the NSC passes were attained by the social grant beneficiaries; and
  • 20% of the distinctions, including in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Science, were attained by social grant beneficiaries.

2018 NSC examination results for the candidates who wrote at Correctional Services facilities

Out of the 133 full-time and 102 part-time candidates, who were enrolled for the 2018 NSC examinations, 112 (that is 84.2%) and 92 (that is 90.2%) respectively, actually wrote the seven requisite subjects.  99 full-time (88.4%), and 43 part-time (46.7%) candidates of those who wrote, passed the 2018 NSC examinations.

A combined 67 candidates (32.4%) achieved Bachelor passes; 46 candidates (22.5%) achieved Diploma passes; and 29 candidates (14.2%) achieved Higher Certificate passes.  None of the candidates, who wrote in Correctional Services facilities achieved NSC passes.  56 distinctions (27.5%) were attained by the full-time and part-time candidates who sat for their 2018 NSC examination in Correctional Services facilities; including in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Science.  These young people, who ended up on the wrong side of the law, were given a lifetime opportunity to improve their lives – thanks to the restorative justice programme of Government – another redress imperative.

2018 NSC examination results for the candidates who wrote at Correctional Services facilities

Out of the 133 full-time and 102 part-time candidates, who were enrolled for the 2018 NSC examinations, 112 (that is 84.2%) and 92 (that is 90.2%) respectively, actually wrote the seven requisite subjects.  99 full-time (88.4%), and 43 part-time (46.7%) candidates of those who wrote, passed the 2018 NSC examinations.

A combined 67 candidates (32.4%) achieved Bachelor passes; 46 candidates (22.5%) achieved Diploma passes; and 29 candidates (14.2%) achieved Higher Certificate passes.  None of the candidates, who wrote in Correctional Services facilities achieved NSC passes.  56 distinctions (27.5%) were attained by the full-time and part-time candidates who sat for their 2018 NSC examination in Correctional Services facilities; including in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Science.  These young people, who ended up on the wrong side of the law, were given a lifetime opportunity to improve their lives – thanks to the restorative justice programme of Government – another redress imperative.

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 wage” 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 Basic Education departments.  We should recall that in 2017, the Eastern Cape had rationalised their number of districts from 23 to 12; and Limpopo had increased their number of districts from five to ten.  This reduced the total number of districts from 81 to 75 nationally.

In 2018, 74 of the 75 districts (98.7% of our districts) attained pass rates of 60% and above (compared to 66 of the 70 districts in 2017; that is 94.3% of our districts); and 34 of the 75 districts (45.3% of our districts) attained pass rates of 80% and above (compared to 31 of the 70 districts in 2017; that is 44.3% of our districts).

Regrettably, one district (1.3%) in the Eastern Cape, achieved a pass rate lower than 60% (compared to 4 of the 70 districts in 2017; that is 5.7% of our districts – two each in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape).  In two years consecutively, no district has performed below 50%.  Congratulations to the Eastern Cape and Limpopo for their rigorous interventions, which reduced the number of districts which performed below 60% in 2017.  The performance of the districts during the 2018 NSC examinations are a testament that provinces are putting the shoulders to the wheel to ensure quality teaching and learning outcomes across the system.

It is noteworthy that the 18 districts (out of 70 in 2017), which is equivalent to 25.7%, that were performing between 50% and 69.9% in 2017, were reduced to 11 districts (out of 75 in 2018), which is equivalent to 14.7% – a reduction of 11%.  Congruently, the number of districts, which performed between 70% and 100% in 2017, were increased from 52 districts (out of the 70 in 2017), which is equivalent to 74.3%, to 64 districts (out of 75 in 2018), which is equivalent to 85.3% – an improvement of 11%.  This is testament that the regular quarterly consultations between the District Directors, the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director-General, and the support programmes coordinated by the NETC, are beginning to bear good fruit.

The top ten (10) performing districts in the country, with the progressed learners included, are as follows –

  • Tenth, is Johannesburg North in Gauteng, with 88.6%;
  • Ninth, is Ekurhuleni North in Gauteng, with 88.8%;
  • Eighth, is Gauteng West in Gauteng, with 89.1%;
  • Seventh, is Tshwane North in Gauteng, with 89.6%;
  • Sixth, is Thabo Mafutsanyana in the Free State, with 90%;
  • fifth, is Johannesburg West in Gauteng, with 90.1%;
  • Fourth, is Sedibeng East in Gauteng, with 90.2%;
  • Third, is Johannesburg East in Gauteng, with 90.3%;
  • Second, is Tshwane South in Gauteng, with 91.7%; and
  • First, is Fezile Dabi in the Free State, with 92.3%.

Fellow South Africans, it is unprecedented that the ten top performing districts in the country, are form two provinces.  In fact, it is for the first time this has happened in the 25 year history of our democratic dispensation.  Again, it is for the very first time that four of the top ten performing districts performed at way more than 85%; and six of the top ten districts performed beyond the 90% glass ceiling.  We must congratulate the Free State and Gauteng – this is definitely no mean feat!!!

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

  • Ninth, is Nelson Mandela in the Eastern Cape, with 76.1%;
  • Eighth, in Vhembe East in Limpopo , with 80.1%;
  • Seventh, Amajuba, in KwaZulu Natal, with 81.7%;
  • Sixth, Ehlanzeni in Mpumalanga, with 82.3%;
  • Fifth, Namaqua in the Northern Cape, with 83.7%;
  • Fourth, Bojanala Platinum in the North West, with 84.1%;
  • Third, Metro North in the Western Cape, with 85.1%;
  • Second, Tshwane South in Gauteng, with 91.7%; and
  • First, Fezile Dabi in the Free State, with 92.3%.

Performance of the Provinces

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

  • Limpopo attained 70.6%, an improvement of 3.2% from the 67.4% achieved in 2017;
  • Eastern Cape attained 71.4%, an improvement of 5.6% from the 65.8% achieved in 2017;
  • Northern Cape attained 75.2%, a decline of 2.4% from 77.6% in 2017;

  • KwaZulu-Natal attained 76.8%, an improvement of 3.2% from the 73.6% achieved in 2017;

  • Mpumalanga attained 80.4%, an improvement of 3.8% from the 76.6% achieved in 2017;

  • Western Cape attained 83.2%, a decline of 1.2% from 84.4% achieved in 2017;

  • North West attained 83.8%, an improvement of 1.7% from 82.1% achieved in 2017;

  • Gauteng attained 89%, an improvement of 3% from 86% achieved in 2017; and

  • Free State attained 91.1%, an improvement of 1.3% from 89.8% achieved in 2017.

With the progressed learners excluded, it is noteworthy that none of the Provinces achieved lower than the 70% pass rate.  All the provinces have shown improvements in their performances with progressed learners, except for the Northern Cape and the Western Cape.  We wish to implore the communities of the Northern Cape to desist from using schools as bargaining chips in their service delivery protests.  We also wish to encourage the Western Cape to provide all struggling learners with support programmes and interventions.

We must applaud the Eastern Cape and Limpopo and for joining the 70% performance club, which includes the Northern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.  With the progressed learners excluded, the Eastern Cape had the largest performance improvement, while Limpopo had the third largest performance improvement.  Clearly, the learner support programmes and interventions these two provinces have implemented, are beginning to bear good fruit.  I must particularly single out the Eastern Cape.  Despite the challenges they are faced with, especially the contestations related to the rationalisation of small and unviable schools, under the leadership of MEC Mandla Makupula (may his dear soul rest in peace), the Eastern Cape has managed to rollout a variety of strategic learner support programmes.  The Province has now taken off, and it is about to reach its cruising height.  I wish to encourage the executive and administrative leadership of the Eastern Cape, to keep the fires burning, in memory of MEC Makupula’s unobliterable and unforgettable legacy.

We also wish to commend Mpumalanga, Western Cape, North West and Gauteng for maintaining their 80% performance status.  We must particularly applaud the Free State, MEC Tate Makgoe and his team for breaking the 90% glass ceiling.

Now let me announce the results achieved by the provinces with progressed learners included.  Only one province achieved below the 70% threshold –

  • Limpopo achieved 69.4%, an improvement of 3.8% from 65.6% achieved in 2017 – the third highest improvement;

    Four provinces achieved above 70%, and these are –
  • Eastern Cape achieved 70.6%, an improvement of 5.6% from 65% achieved in 2017 – the largest improvement in the country;
  • Northern Cape achieved 73.3%, a decline of 2.3% from 75.6% achieved in 2017;

  • KwaZulu-Natal achieved 76.2%, an improvement of 3.3% from 72.9% achieved in 2017; and

  • Mpumalanga achieved 79%, an improvement of 4.2% from 74.8% achieved in 2017 – the second highest improvement.

    Four provinces achieved above 80%

  • North West achieved 81.1%, an improvement of 1.7% from 79.4% achieved in 2017;

  • Western Cape achieved 81.5%, a decline of 1.3% from 82.8% achieved in 2017;

  • Free State, achieved 87.5%, an improvement of 1.4% from 86.1% achieved in 2017.

Finally, with progressed learners included, the top performing province for 2018, is Gauteng achieved 87.9%, improving from 85.1% in 2017, an improvement of 2.8%.  It must be noted the Gauteng raised the bar in almost all applicable performance indicators, except the performance with the progressed learners excluded, and the number and percentage of passes with distinctions.  For instance, among the top ten best performing districts, eight come from Gauteng; and among the top twenty best performing districts, fourteen come from Gauteng, four from the Free State, and two from the Western Cape.  Gauteng leads in the number of progressed learners and their performance; the total number and percentage of Bachelor passes.  Congratulation to MEC Panyaza Lesufi and your team!!!

Fellow South Africans, the 2018 NSC examination results with progressed learners, continue to dispel the myth that progressed learners adversely affect the overall results.

Overall national performance

This brings us to the 2018 NSC examination overall results.  For the past eight years, we have noted that the NSC pass rate has consistently been above the previous 70% glass ceiling.  The Class of 2018 must be commended for maintaining this trend.  They are the fourth largest cohort in the history of basic education to register for any NSC examination in the country.

The 2018 NSC overall pass rate, with the progressed learners included, stands at 78.2%, a 3.1% improvement from the 75.1% achieved in 2017.  This, represents 400 761 candidates (including progressed learners), who had passed the 2018 NSC examination (compared to 401 435 candidates in 2017).

However, with the progressed learners excluded, the 2018 NSC overall pass rate stands at 79.4%, a 2.9% improvement from the 76.5% achieved in 2017.  Well done to the Class of 2018!!!

Further analysis of the 2018 NSC examination results, with the progressed learners included, show that –

  • the number of candidates qualifying for admission to Bachelor studies is 172 043 (compared to 153 610 in 2017), which represents 33.6% of the total number of candidates, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations (compared to 28.7% in 2017);
  • the number candidates, who passed with a Diploma is 141 700 (compared to 161 333 in 2017), which represents 27.6% of the total number of candidates, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations (compared to 30.2% in 2017);
  • the number of candidates who passed with Higher Certificates is 86 790 (compared to 86 265 in 2017), which represents 16.9% of the total number of candidates, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations (compared to 16.1% in 2017); and

  • The number of candidates who passed with a National Senior Certificate (NSC) is 99 (compared to 99 in 2017), which represents 0.02% of total number of candidates, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations (same as the 0.02% attained in 2017); and the number of candidates who passed with an endorsed NSC is 129, which represents 0.03% of candidates, who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations.

It is important to note that a total of 312 743 candidates (equivalent to 78.3%), who achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes, are eligible for studies at higher education and training institutions (compared to 314 943 candidates, equivalent to 78.5% in 2017).  The 86 790 candidates, and equivalent to 21.7% (compared to 86 265 candidates, and equivalent to 21.5% in 2017), who obtained certificate passes, may register at TVET Colleges and other skills training institutions.

It must be noted that between 2008 and 2018, the basic education system has produced a total of about 1.577 million Bachelor passes (compared to 1.405 million Bachelor passes between 2008 and 2017).  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 current skills and employability profiles.

In 2018, a total of 156 885 distinctions were achieved (compared to a total of 161 081 in 2017) a decline of 2.6%.  The main contributors towards the distinctions achieved are KwaZulu-Natal with 41 734; Gauteng with 36 114; Western Cape with 24 822; Eastern Cape with 16 109; and Limpopo with 15 748.  It is remarkable to note that the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo – the three rural provinces, produced a combined total of 75 591 distinctions, which is equivalent to 46.9% of the total distinctions (compared to 74 784, equivalent to 46.2% of the total distinctions in 2017).

In the 12 key subjects (including Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, and Physical Science among others), the total number of distinctions stands at 58 806, a decline of 4.3% from 2017.  The number of distinctions attained specifically in the gateway subjects is as follows:

  • 5 169 distinctions in Accounting were achieved, compared to 5 040 in 2017;
  • 5 828 distinctions were achieved in Mathematics, compared to 6 726 in 2017; and
  • 8 135 distinctions were achieved in Physical Science, compared to 7 861 in 2017.

In the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, “no fee” schools produced more distinctions than their fee-paying counterparts.  The proportions are as follows –

  • In the Eastern Cape, for every distinction produced in fee-paying school, a “no fee” school produced almost two distinctions;
  • In Limpopo, for every distinction produced in a fee-paying school, a “no fee” school produced three distinctions; and
  • In Mpumalanga, every distinction produced in a fee-paying school, a “no fee” school produced about two distinctions.

However, the picture is completely different in the rest of the provinces, as fee-paying schools, dominate the production of passes with distinctions, though “no fee” schools are catching up in the KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West –

 

  • For every six distinctions produced in a “no fee” school in the Free State, a fee-paying school produced ten distinctions;

     

  • In Gauteng, for every three distinctions produced by a “no fee” school, a fee-paying school produced ten distinctions;

     

  • In KwaZulu-Natal, for every seven distinctions produced by a “no fee” school, a fee-paying school produced ten distinctions;

     

  • Every six distinctions produced by a “no fee” school in the North West, a fee-paying school produced ten distinctions; and

     

  • In the Western Cape, for every distinction produced by a “no fee” school, a fee-paying school produced ten distinctions.

     

    Aggregation according to gender

     

    There are 60 373 more girls than boys, who enrolled for the 2018 NSC examinations (an increase of 7.1% from 2017 numbers); and there are 56 531 more girls than boys who actually wrote the 2018 NSC examinations (a decline of 2.4% from the 2017 numbers).

     

    Overall, there are 218 007 girls who passed the 2018 NSC examinations, compared to 217 387 in 2017 (an increase of 0.2% from 2017).  When translated into percentages, 76.8% girls (an increase of 3.4% from 2017), and 79.7% boys (an increase of 2.5% from in 2017) passed the 2018 NSC examinations.

     

    There are 95 128 female candidates (compared to 84 516 in 2017), who obtained Bachelor passes; while 76 202 of their male counterparts obtained Bachelor passes (compared to 69 094 in 2017).  Some 74 283 female candidates (compared to 84 134 in 2017) obtained Diploma passes; while 66 857 of their male counterparts obtained Diploma passes (compared to 77 199 in 2017).  48 522 female candidates (compared to 48 659 in 2017), obtained Higher Certificate passes; while 37 975 of their male counterparts obtained Higher Certificate passes (compared to 37 606 in 2017).  37 female candidates obtained NSC passes (compared to 43 in 2017); while 77 of their male counterparts obtained NSC passes (compared to 56 in 2017).

     

    Therefore, there are 36 859 more female candidates who achieved Bachelor, Diploma, Higher Certificates, and NSC passes, than their male counterparts.  This implies that there are 26 352 more female candidates than their male counterparts, who are eligible for studies at higher education and training institutions; and 10 547 more female candidates than their male counterparts, who are eligible for training at TVET Colleges or other skills development institutions.

     

    62.4% of the 156 885 distinctions (compare to the 62.6% of the 161 081 distinctions in 2017), were attained by female candidates; while their male counterparts attained 36.6% distinctions (compared to 37.4% distinctions in 2017).  Therefore, there are 42 063 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 (compared to 40 505 in 2017).

     

    Fellow South Africans, we often forget, is that Government’s efforts to provide young people with multiple NSC opportunities, is bringing hope to young people beyond what is reflected in the Matric data we release each year.  The data deal mostly with full-time learners obtaining the NSC on their first attempt.  Lately, we have seen from the age profile of NSC examination candidates, an average of around 35 000 additional NSC passes, obtained each year by candidates who sit for supplementary examinations, or rewriting examinations as part-time students, or benefitting from the Second Chance Programme and the Multiple Examination Opportunity initiative.  These opportunities have become increasingly available since around 2008.

     

    We are indeed a system on the rise – a remarkable story to tell

     

    Fellow South Africans, the evidence I have just presented today, points unequivocally to progress in the Basic Education Sector in the area that matters most, namely learning outcomes.  It is however, important to understand what drove this progress, which will inform the way forward.  Our research unit and partners are busy at this.  We must, in a synoptic way, just synthesise the evidence we have just presented to clearly demonstrate that the Basic Education Sector is addressing in an unwavering manner the social justice principles we are enjoined to observe – the principles of access, redress, equity, inclusivity, efficiency and quality.

     

    Firstly, the criticism that Government is not rigorously implementing the prescripts of the NDP, must be refuted as fallacious in the Basic Education Sector.  Without reciting all the prescripts of the NDP relating to education, it is critical to remind South Africans about NDP stipulated vision of a post-apartheid schooling system – that of “...a South Africa, where everyone feels free yet bounded to others; where everyone embraces their full potential, a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work”.  Clearly the transformative policies and programmes of the Government, have begun to bear good fruits.  For instance –

     

  • Of the progressed learners (access and redress imperatives), who wrote the 2018 NSC examinations, 20 122 passed.  11 361 of these candidates have earned the right to register to access higher education institutions, and 8 739 can access TVET and skills development institutions.  These are young people who could have been lost to posterity, had they not been afforded a second chance in the lives.  Of particular significance, 2 115 of these young people attained distinctions including in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Science;

     

  • Gender parity has been reached in terms of access, survival in the entire schooling system (equity imperative), and quality of results attained by female candidates in particular.  For instance 36 869 more female candidates than their male counterparts have passed; 26 352 more female candidates are eligible to register at higher education institutions; and 10 547 more female candidates are eligible to register at TVET and other skills development institutions; and 63.4% of the 156 885 distinctions, were attained by female candidates, including in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Science;

     

  • We are consciously addressing the social justice principle of inclusivity.  Of the 3 856 learners with special education needs wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, 3 051 passed with Bachelor, Diploma, Higher Certificate and NSC passes.  1 669 and 861 of these learners, achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes, respectively – thus earning themselves the right to access higher education institutions.  402 obtained Higher Certificate passes and 119 achieved endorsed NSC passes; and are eligible to register at TVET and skills development institutions; and

     

  • The pro-poor policies of the governing party have borne good fruit; as the 2018 NSC passes for quintiles 1 to 3 (“no fee”) schools combined, stand at 241 340; compared to the 140 036 passes attained by quintile 4 and 5 (fee paying) schools – a difference of 101 304 passes.  More significantly are the quality of these passes – 53% of Bachelor passes are from quintile 1 to 3 schools.  In fact, research shows that quintile 1 to 3 schools, have been significantly producing more Bachelor and Diploma passes than their quintile 4 and 5 schools, since 2015 – the scales have tilted to a 53% to 47% pass rates.  Whereas in 2005, 60% of the Bachelor passes came from the 20% of the top performing school in the country.  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 has significantly and progressively increased from 3% in 2015, to 6% in 2018.  While inequalities still remain in the system, Government must however be applauded for its pro-poor polices, which in the Basic Education arena, do not only focus on alleviating poverty through a variety of interventions, but address the social justice principles of access, redress, equity and quality imperatives).

     

    Secondly, only 43 000 candidates, who sat for the erstwhile fragmented 1970 Matric examinations, passed.  This number significantly grew to more than 190 000 in 1990; more than 280 000 in 2000; more than 340 000 in 2009, and now the passes stand at 400 761 in 2018.  The passes have therefore grown by more than 930% from 1970; by almost 210% from 1990; by more than 140% from 2000; and by more than 115% from 2009.

     

    Thirdly, out of the 400 761 candidates who passed in 2018, more than 310 000 are eligible to register for Bachelor and Diploma studies at higher education institutions; and more than 86 000 candidates are eligible to pursue their studies and skill development at the TVET or other skills development institutions.

     

    Fourthly, the fact that the top ten performing districts, have performed way above 85%; the fact that 34 districts have performed above 80%, and the fact that eight out of nine provinces have broken the 70% glass ceiling with progressed learners included, are clear testament that we are a system that has matured, self-correcting, and stabilised.

     

    Fifthly, the fact that provinces have found working formulae to support struggling learners, which among other indicators, is shown in the performances of progressed learners, who managed to obtain more than 2 000 distinctions even in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Science, clearly demonstrates that with focused support programmes and interventions, the sky is the limit.

     

    Fellow South Africans, making sure that every young South African receives quality schooling is an urgent need.  Yet, we realise that this cannot be brought about overnight.  We need a clear vision of where we want to be in 2030, or even before then if possible.  And we must make sure that every year we move a bit closer to our vision, recognising that a large improvement is actually an accumulation of many smaller change.

     

    Our path towards quality schooling, is that bearing the hallmarks of a “silent revolution”.  A beacon of hope has been brought, particularly to the candidates who were from “no fee” schools; the candidates who were progressed learners; the candidates who were social grant beneficiaries; the candidates from Correctional Services facilities who were offenders; the candidates who are learners with special educational needs – all of whom wrote for the 2018 NSC examinations and did exceptionally well.  Clearly, the transformative policies and programmes of Government were bearing good fruit.  A remarkable story indeed.

     

    Fellow South Africans, making sure that every young South African receives quality schooling is an imperative.  Yet, we realise that this cannot be brought about overnight.  We need a clear vision of where we want to be in 2030, or even before then if possible.  And we must make sure that every year we move a bit closer to our vision, recognising that a large improvement is actually an accumulation of many smaller change.

     

    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 areas of efficiency and quality.  We call upon all South Africans to work together with us to move the public schooling to greater heights.

     

    One of the reasons we are excited about the general upward trend in our Grade 12 results, is that we know this is a manifestation of improvements occurring at all levels of the entire schooling system.  TIMSS and SAECMEQ data point to ongoing improvements over the last ten to fifteen years in what our learners know and can do at the primary and lower secondary levels.  Even the PIRLS results, when viewed over the longer 2006 to 2016 period, point to substantial improvements in the ability of young South Africans to read.

     

    We must always remind ourselves that long-term improvements in education, are the accumulation of many smaller advances.  There are no magic silver bullets, as our partners in UNESCO and UNICEF like to remind us.  We have seen improvements, and we have a general idea of what took us forward – the CAPS curriculum; a better focus on assessments and what learners learn; a focus on the foundations of learning in the lower Grades; as well as better access to learning and teaching materials in the classroom.

     

    We need to continue working on these priorities, including focused support programmes and interventions geared towards the performance of male learners.  Even the regional and international assessment studies confirm that female learners out-perform their male counterparts.  Therefore, a particular focus on our strategies and priorities, are our best assurance of continued improved quality progress in our Grade 12 performance indicators.

     

    Once again, I take off my hat to the Class of 2018, 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, “education is the great engine of personal development.  It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the President of a great nation.  It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

     

    In celebrating the Class of 2018, I must also thank the principals, teachers, and parents for the work they continue to do.  The schools are at the coalface of Basic Education delivery.  What you do at the school level, is what matters the most.  The future of our learners, and 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.

     

    I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Oversight Committees (the Portfolio and Select Committees responsible for Basic Education), the Deputy Minister (my partner in crime), 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 the Christmas vacation in order to ensure that the announcement of the 2018 NSC examination results proceeds without glitches.

     

    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.  We also wish to thank the Vodacom 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: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 1/3/2019
Number of Views: 2186

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