The Matric pass rate was 80.1% for 2022.

The year may have officially started two weeks ago, but for the Matric Class of 2022 – it’s yet to begin.

As the release of Matric results draws closer, the whole country is eagerly waiting to see how well last year’s class performed.

In the last five years, the pass rate has been above 76%, even hitting 80.1% in 2022 – falling slightly below 2019’s record-high 81.3%.

Despite the impressive digits, many have questioned the low pass threshold wondering whether the country’s Matric results are all about quantity over quality.

Currently, to obtain a Matric certificate pupils are required to get at least 40% in three subjects including their home language, as well as a further 30% for the four remaining subjects. However, they can still narrowly escape with one failed subject.

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‘Important indicator’

Weighing in, education expert professor Brahm Fleisch said the pass rate was a significant indicator.

“The pass rate is an important indicator. It’s not perfect but it does provide some information about what’s going on in schools.”

However, he acknowledged that narrowly measuring the success of our education system by percentage pass rate didn’t provide a full picture.

The expert recommended zooming in on the number of candidates who obtained a certificate pass and those with bachelor passes across schools.

“At the moment we have a large number of schools that are now achieving 90% pass rate, but a very small number of [pupils] are obtaining marks at the level which would allow them access to higher education – particularly universities,” he explained.

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Low threshold?

While some matriculants exceed the minimum pass requirements, obtaining bachelor passes with distinctions – they only account for less than half. The class of 2022 has the highest number of bachelor passes recorded to date at 45.9%.

Furthermore, 26.7% obtained Diploma passes while 14.9% passed with a Higher Certificate last year.

The country’s pass requirements have been the subject of many debates, with some saying the bar is too low, proposing going back to the drawing board.

Fleisch has a different take. “I don’t think we need to change the standard of what constitutes a pass, but I do think it may be useful to explore alternative formulations which would give us good insight into the extent to which the quality problem is being addressed.”

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Technical and vocational training

The lucky few will make their way to various tertiary institutions to further their studies. Unfortunately, many might never get to see the inside of a lecture room.

So, what happens to the hundreds of thousands whose career prospects are blurred by their Matric results?

Some believe that eliminating technical and vocational subjects from most public schools has done a disservice to many pupils, sparking calls for reintroduction.

“There’s a whole lot of debate in the Department of Basic Education (DBE) around the introduction of technical and vocational subjects,” Fleisch said.

The expert questioned whether high school was the best place to provide vocational and technical skills.

“The challenge with that is that many businesses won’t really recognise the quality of the vocational technical subjects done in schools. They generally would prefer to see the students studying those high-level subjects at a TVET college or university of technology,” Fleisch said.

“Research suggests the real challenge is often not the skill itself, but access to financing and networks.”

Flesich believes that a simple introduction of vocational subjects will not solve the country’s high youth unemployment rate.

“There’s always a temptation to require an education system to address societal challenges. I’m not sure if just diversifying the curriculum will address that particular challenge,” he told The Citizen.

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