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Allow me first to extend warm greetings to all our people and their children. Before presenting the results of the 2012 National Senior Certificate Grade 12 exams, I wish deeply to thank all South Africans for embracing President Jacob Zuma’s call to make education a societal issue.

Achievements in education

We’re encouraged by notable improvements in the education of children and society. Sustained improvements on matric results are a consequence of systemic interventions for strengthening and raising performance in all levels of the system.

Indeed 2012 has shown that remarkable progress in education will depend largely on deliberate, purposeful action.

While we celebrate the many achievements we’re making together in education, the challenges of 2012 should spur us on seriously to consolidate our advances.

The building-blocks are firmly in place. Before we talk results, we should reflect on measures taken to improve performance. We’re implementing the revised Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), per phase, in the General Education and Training and Further Education and Training bands, as follows: Grades R, 1-3 and 10 (done) in 2012; Grades 4-6 and 11 this year; and Grades 7-9 and 12 next year.

Teachers are empowered with clear, concise and unambiguous curriculum and assessment statements. This helps in improving learners’ ability to count, read and write. Many educators, and parents, are happy with changes we’ve made in the curriculum.

Our national strategy for improving literacy and numeracy has assisted in improving education quality. It has strengthened the teachers’ capacity to teach, in particular, the literacy and numeracy curriculum. For principals, district, provincial and DBE officials, the national strategy has jerked up provision of teacher and learner support.

We have coordinated teacher development with provincial departments in targeted areas, with over 184 207 teachers. The goal was, and remains, improving professionalism, teaching skills and teacher subject-knowledge. A collaborative teacher development programme with teacher unions was initiated. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in this regard.

We have provided workbooks, nationally, to all learners in Grades 1 to 9. We have provided, with the Shuttleworth Foundation, over 4 million supplementary textbooks to Grade 10-12 learners, for Mathematics.

We have focused on quality. We have emphasised equity, access and efficiency. The central thrust of intervention strategies had been on mobilizing the entire system to do more to improve learner performance.

The 2012 Annual National Assessment was a massive undertaking with over 7 million learners writing. As we did report, learner performance in the Foundation Phase (Grades 1, 2 and 3) is pleasing and there is progress in the Intermediate Phase (Grade 4, 5 and 6).

While not unexpected, the results for Grade 9, particularly for Mathematics, have been disappointing.

In Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy improved from 35% to an impressive 52%, an improvement of 17%. In Grade 3 Numeracy, performance was 41% up from 28% in 2011, an improvement of 13%.

In Grade 6, the national average performance in Languages was 43% (Home Language) and 36% (First Additional Language) as compared to 28% in 2011.

In Grade 6 Mathematics, sadly, average performance went down to 27% compared to 30% in 2011.

For the first time, in 2012, we assessed Grade 9s and this will enable us to have a benchmark through which we can be able to report progress or lack thereof in this phase.

Schooling in 2012

There is stability in the sector. In 2012, the teaching and learning environment was relatively stable. The exception was the Northern Cape where schooling was severely disrupted by service delivery protests in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District.

The provincial department was decisive in setting-up a study camp for learners. They wrote their exams in the camp. Learners who couldn’t write will take supplementary exams next month.

Since the Eastern Cape and Limpopo are under administration, they’ve received priority support from the national Department. We will continue to work with these provinces to ensure educational outcomes continue to improve.

For the record, let me repeat the Limpopo textbook saga. Let me start off by admitting that it was indeed a very unfortunate matter that should not have happened.

Between the national and provincial education departments, we have apologised profusely. What happened was that the delayed textbooks affected Grades 1-3 and 10 learners where the CAPS were implemented for the first time.

Contrary to concerns raised that there was no teaching in Limpopo for these grades, the new CAPS curriculum did not change everything in the syllabi. In some subjects there were no changes at all. Where there were, they did not exceed 5% and could be accommodated within the available time.

More important, books from previous years could be used and were used. Now to say for 7 months there was no teaching in Limpopo schools was an exaggeration to the extreme. Following the concerns raised in the media, I convened a number of meetings with principals and in all meetings it was confirmed that the delays in the delivery of textbooks did not result in 7 months of no teaching.

Schools used the old books and learning and teaching did continue in the province. Now to judge the province as that province where there was no teaching for 7 months is wrong. I’m raising this not to undermine the seriousness of this matter, which I repeat, was unfortunate, should not have happened and should never happen again.

Teaching and learning in Grade 12 was not affected.

Informed by the 2011 NSC results, provincial departments had developed support plans for underperforming schools and had identified weaknesses in their domain of education delivery.

In a targeted response to weaknesses raised by the 2011 National Diagnostic report (DBE 2012), the Mind the Gap series was developed in 4 key Grade 12 subjects – Economics, Life Sciences, Accounting and Geography. These books were distributed in Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape and will be made available to all provinces in 2013.

National Senior Certificate examinations

We emphasised thorough preparation for the NSC exam. This exam is the ultimate measure of achievements of twelve years of schooling. It assesses learners’ knowledge and skills gained over years of schooling. NSC results rank among important performance indicators of the entire schooling system.

Results over the past four years show progress in education. 2012 is the fifth year for NSC exams administered across the country. This is a reasonable time to reflect on the last 5 years.

It is encouraging to note that public exams in South Africa have attained a high level of stability and, in many respects, their practices have been entrenched in all provinces.

Recently, concerns were raised on promotion requirements.

Truth be told, pass requirements for NSC are not any lower than the old Senior Certificate. You claim lower standards only when you’re simply fishing for a very serious insult, leading you easily to compare everything to apartheid times so to express your hatred for the current government and its leadership.

I challenge them to go back to their apartheid certificates and check if there is no description of a 331/3 pass and a 25% lower grade or an F and H symbols.

It’s been a great surprise to hear fellow Apartheid learners say in their times passing was actually more difficult.

Under the current system, a candidate has to offer 7 subjects and in the old system it was 6 only. In the old system, a candidate could pass two approved languages, at least one at first language at 331/3%, pass at least 3 other subjects at 40%. The aggregate was 720 marks. Under the old system a candidate could pass with a converted mark of 25% (LG).

Under the current system, the lowest pass is 40% for home language, two other subjects at 40% and three subjects could be at 30%. Actually, in 2012, the percentage of learners in the 30-39% level is about 1.8% making it quite strange to have this hullabaloo that we pass children at 30%. Almost 98% of our learners doesn’t pass at this level.

A Higher Certificate requires a higher pass mark. A diploma, allowing for entry at tertiary level, requires a pass of 4 subjects at 40%, language of learning at 30% and a pass of above 331/3%. For a bachelor’s pass, at least 4 subjects must be at 50%, language of learning 30% and others above 331/3%.

I’m setting-up a Ministerial committee to look into this matter again and give international comparisons. This will help to put the minds of our parents and learners at rest and to restore confidence in South Africa’s qualifications. This team will deal with concerns also raised about publishing learners’ results with their names instead of using their student numbers.

Class of 2012

Learners exiting Grade 12 in 2012 have affectionately been called South Africa’s “born frees” since most were born in the year of the first free and democratic elections.

Enrolled in Grade 1 in 2001, 7 years since democracy, they’ve experienced 12 years of schooling under the new curriculum.

The number of fulltime candidates writing the NSC has increased from 496 090 in 2011 to 511 152 in 2012 – an increase of 15 062 candidates. The number of part-time candidates who wrote in 2012 is 81 552 compared to 80 116 in 2011 (an increase of 1 436).

In total, 262 question papers were set, 7.8 million question papers printed and written at 6611 examination centres, supervised by 65 000 invigilators. In total, 7.4 million scripts were marked by 39 039 markers at 118 centres.

To ensure that our papers are pitched at an international standard, we have embarked on an international evaluation of question papers in 2002, 2007 and 2010.

Question papers for selected subjects were evaluated by reputable international assessment bodies namely, Cambridge International Examinations, Scottish Qualification Authority and Board of Studies New South Wales. The 2011 benchmarking process also added an important dimension that includes Higher Education South Africa.


Over the last five years there has been a significant improvement in the examination system and processes. The 2012 NSC exams proceeded without major problems.

On 21 December 2012, Umalusi convened the standardisation meeting at which performance in each subject was analysed statistically and qualitatively to ensure current performance was in keeping with performance in previous years.

Umalusi was able to use raw scores for the majority of subjects.

Out of the 58 subjects that were standardised, raw scores of 41 were accepted. Of those that were adjusted, 12 were taken down, and only 5 were taken up.

On 28 December 2012, Umalusi announced that the 2012 NSC examinations were fair, valid and credible and that all processes met their standards.

2012 national results

This brings us to the 2012 results. In the past three years, the pass rate has been as follows: In 2009 it was 60.6%, in 2010 it was 67.8% and in 2011 it was 70.2%.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the national pass rate for the Class of 2012 is 73.9%. This is an increase of 3.7% on the 2011 results (70.2%). This is also an increase of 13.3% since 2009 (60.6%).

This growth is very encouraging bearing in mind that when we came into office, we had put the targeted growth at 75% by 2014. Now at 73.9% our target is within reach. From this year, we will work even harder not only to sustain this growth but to push for an even higher pass rate, beyond 75%.

In 2012, 377 829 learners out of 511 152 passed matric. This is an increase of 29 712 learners on the 2011 results (348 117).

Hearty congratulations to the Class of 2012!

The number of passes in Mathematics, that is, 121 970 in 2012, is 17 937 more than the 104 033 of 2011. The pass rate for Mathematics is 54% in 2012. This is an improvement from 46.3% of 2011.

The number of passes in Physical Science, that is, 109 918 in 2012, is 13 477 more than the 96 441 of 2011. The pass rate for Physical Science in 2012 is 61.3%. (It was 53.4% in 2011.)

This improvement is important for us since in the Action Plan we have undertaken to increase the number of Grade 12 learners who pass these two subjects.

We’ve also focused on improving performance in other subjects. The number of passes in Accounting – 88 508 in 2012 – is more than the 84 972 in 2011. The pass rate for Accounting in 2012 is 65.6%. (It was 61.6% in 2011.)

The number of passes in Geography – 162 046 in 2012 – is more than the 139 405 in 2011. The pass rate for Geography in 2012 is 75.8%. (It was 70.0% in 2011.) The number of passes in Economics – 97 842 in 2012 – is more than the 85 411 of 2011. The pass rate for Economics is 72.8%. (64% in 2011.)

The number of passes in History – 81 265 in 2012 – is more than the 65 239 in 2011. The pass rate for History in 2012 is 86%. (It was 75.9% in 2011.)

The number of passes in Mathematical Literacy is 254 611 for 2012 compared to 236 548 for 2011.

We’ve also set in the Action Plan a target of having 175 000 learners qualifying for a Bachelor’s programme. A figure of 136 047 was attained this year. It was 120 767 in 2011. This is an increase of 15 280 learners.

The percentage of Grade 12 learners who qualified for Bachelor’s studies was 20.1% in 2008, 19.9% in 2009, 23.5% in 2010 and 24.3% in 2011. It has now increased to 26.6%.

We have achieved 55 650 distinctions in the main subjects.

Improving the quality of education is perhaps the most important development task confronting our nation.

High-quality education, equally distributed, is one of the most effective and least conflictive ways of transforming a society.

Provincial results

Provincial Education Departments have worked very hard from the beginning of 2012.

Key interventions focused on improving performance in Mathematics, Physical Science, Accounting, Life Sciences and Geography in particular and supporting underperforming schools and their principals. These initiatives have reaped observable dividends.

Provincial pass rates are as follows, in ascending order:

Eastern Cape achieved 58.1% in 2011. In 2012 it improved to 61.6%, an increase of 3.5%. Limpopo achieved 66.9% in 2012, up from 63.9% of 2011, an improvement of 3.0%. Mpumalanga achieved 70%, up from 64.8% and an improvement of 5.2%. KwaZulu-Natal achieved 73.1%, an improvement from 68.1% in 2011, and an increase of 5.0%.

Northern Cape achieved 74.6%, up from 68.8% in 2011, representing the largest improvement by a province, of 5.9%. North West achieved 79.5%, up from 77.8%, an improvement of 1.7%.

Free State achieved 81.1%, up from 75.7%, an improvement of 5.4% (the second largest). Western Cape achieved 82.8%, down from 82.9% in 2011, a decline of 0.1%.

Gauteng has registered the highest pass rate, at 83.9%, up from 81.1% in 2011, an improvement of 2.8%.

Well done to MEC Creecy and her team!

District performance

Coming to District performance, 52 reached 70% and above, compared to 45 districts in 2011. Of the 81 districts in the country, 71 performed at 60% and above passes, 7 were between 50% and 59%. Only 3 districts were below 49%.

The 10 districts performing below 60% are in the Eastern Cape. The 3 poorest performing Districts are Fort Beaufort (improved by 2.9% to 44.7%), Mt Frere (improved by 4.9% to 49.6%) and Qumbu (which declined from 59.4% to 49.1%)

The other 7 poorly performing districts are Butterworth (improved from 46% to 53.9%), Dutywa (0.2% improvement), King Williams Town, Libode (improved from 39.1% to 59.4%), Lusikisiki (improved by 1% to 59.4%), Mbizana (improved from 54.9% to 57.6%) and Sterkspruit (from 48.8% to 56.1%).

We congratulate Obonjeni in Kwazulu Natal, Waterberg in Limpopo, Bohlabela in Mpumalanga, John Taolo Gaetsewe in the Northern Cape and Queenstown in the Eastern Cape for achieving 60% and above passes in 2012. We will redouble our efforts in those districts showing poorest performance.

Improvements in Bohlabela and other districts show our interventions were successful.

2013 priorities

We are ready for 2013. Improving learner performance is the fundamental objective of the Action Plan and has been the glue tying together the interventions we’ve undertaken.

In 2013, we will continue to focus on strategic priorities, encompassing CAPS, ANA, Workbooks and Infrastructure.

We will continue to focus on the 3Ts of Teachers, Text and Time on task. These priorities necessitate improved and targeted curriculum management by principals and school management. Districts must intensify monitoring, management and support of intervention programmes at schools.

We plan to improve learning outcomes by, inter alia, attracting young, talented and appropriately trained teachers and paying attention to improving and enhancing teaching skills and content knowledge of those already in the profession. We will ensure learners cover all topics required for each school year.

We’ve prioritised school infrastructure and eradication of mud schools. On 10 December 2012, the President’s Infrastructure Coordinating Committee launched the National School Build Programme and government has committed more funding for school infrastructure.

We’ll continue improving access to quality early childhood development. Our 2011 monitoring results suggest that between 2002 and 2012 the country has improved from 39.3% in 2002 to 84.8% in 2012.

We’ve established special teams to strengthen our monitoring and support work for provinces. These include a team to audit provincial reading programmes and investigate the strengths and weaknesses in the implementation of these programmes.

We’ve established a maths and science task-team not only to identify challenges in the teaching of maths and science but also to work with provincial departments dealing with them.

The eradication of inequality is an important priority for government. I have therefore noted the reduction in inequality in the spread of results progressively over the last four years.

Using our most recent data, the Gini coefficient (which is a measure of inequality) has dropped from 0.257 in 2009 to 0.203 in 2010, to 0.192 in 2011 and 0.169 in 2012. The bigger number represents greater inequality. These figures illustrate that we are moving in the right direction in ensuring that inequality in performance is reduced in our schooling system.

On the whole, from both the 2012 ANA and matric results we can confidently assure parents and learners that we are moving forward. This is the more reason for celebrating our gains in education while consolidating our advances as promised in the 2012/13 Budget Vote speech for Basic Education.

But government cannot do all these things alone. Working together we can do more.

A process under the leadership of Mr Sizwe Nxasana and Goodwin from Xenex Foundation and Jet respectively has been intiated and plans are in place to launch a national education partnership initiative this year.

This initiative will enhance existing partnerships such as the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign and the Nedlac Basic Education Accord. This will also help in making education a societal issue in pursuance of developmental goals we set out in the New Growth Path and the National Development Plan.

To succeed, we need active participation of all stakeholders and partners, including parents, teacher unions, learner formations, business, NGOs, research institutions, and others.

Message for the Class of 2012

To learners who have excelled, the world is your oyster. Go out there and realise your dreams. This country needs you.

To those who did not perform as expected, do not lose heart. There are many options for improving your results or pursuing alternative career paths. Your results notwithstanding, this is not the end of the world. We all learn from trial and error.

The ANC government, with its social partners, will continue to prioritise job creation and skills development for accelerated economic growth and opportunities for young people.

Our Department is working closely with the Department of Higher Education and Training to promote the smooth transition of learners from the schooling system to post-school education, and pre-service teacher education.

Message for the Class of 2013

To motivate the Class of 2013, allow me briefly to share a sad experience of a committed learner yearning to get education by all means. His name is Remember Mashabela, from Limpopo.

At the start of the 2012 exams, I went to see him at a Pretoria hospital where he was writing his exams. He was receiving specialised treatment for a chronic illness. He first registered in 2010 but could not write all his subjects.

In 2012, in spite of being gravely ill, he wrote and passed English Home Language (57%), Mathematics (62%), Life Sciences (62%), Physical Science (54%) and Afrikaans FAL. This translates to a National Senior Certificate Bachelor’s Pass.

But after his exams, at the height of his educational achievement, he was overcome by illness. It is our wish that his family should draw strength from his courage and we hope such death-defying courage will live on in the Class of 2013.

The bar has been set. The Class of 2013 should aim high. The same message goes for all our learners in Grades 1 to 11 who are preparing themselves for a better life beyond Grade 12.

I would like to acknowledge the sterling support and motivation of parents, guardians and teachers who actually carry the most responsibility in the education chain and all education officials.

We are grateful to teacher unions for their support and partnership, the business sector that continues to support us both professionaly and materially, education non-governmental organisations especially for their professional inputs and ongoing support in different ways.

We thank the international donor community, the EU, USAID, Scandinavian countries, Japan and Asiatic countries for all their contributions and for making our children their business.

Our heartfelt gratitude to all the people in general and organisations who supported education in one way or another.

I would like to thank all MECs, HODs, provincial and district officials for their efforts. I thank my colleague, Deputy Minister Surty. You are just simply the best person to be partnered with for such a big and challenging task.

A warm thank you to all members of the education portfolio committee, under MP Malgas, including the ANC study group for their ongoing guidance. My most sincere gratitude to the NCOP education committee for its support.

To my Director-General, Mr Bobby Soobrayan and his team, once again, thank you for a job well done.

Thank you to my family, my husband, children and my mother, your support has been a pillar of strength for me.

I also wish to extend special thanks to the ANC policy head of education, Dr Zweli Mkhize, for his support and guidance during his term as policy head. His counsel and hard work contributed greatly towards ensuring that we steadily and safely take this titanic out of troubled waters.

And so, without doubt, I assure all South Africans that the education and future of their children is in good hardworking and caring hands. We will do everything in our power not to fail them. We appreciate how important, vital and precious education is and therefore continue to commit ourselves to do our utmost best for all our learners in all our schools.


Lastly, I wish all learners the very best. We call upon all of you to help us improve on this year’s results. Working together we can do more to improve the quality of basic education, bearing in mind, at all times, that the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

I thank you.

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Statement during the announcement of the 2012 National Senior Certificate Grade 12 Examination Results by Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, SABC Auditorium: 02 January 2013


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