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This year’s supplementary matric exams have again yielded a large number of “no shows” and a low pass rate.

In a recent report on the “National Senior Certificate examinations and remodelling of ANA” presented to the portfolio committee on basic education, the Department of Basic Education said 124 148 candidates had enrolled for this year’s supplementary exams, but only 76 760 of them wrote, which means that more than 38% never turned up.

After last year’s end-of-year exams, the department said the pass rate rose from 70.7% the previous year, to 72.5%.

The 76 760 candidates who wrote this year’s supplementary exams produced an extra 13 765 national senior certificates, which pushed the overall pass rate up slightly – by 2%, to 74.5%.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 22 673 of the 36 387 candidates who enrolled for this year’s supplementary exams wrote, while about 37.7% did not.

The province obtained an additional 3 257 passes, pushing the provincial pass rate up by 1.5%, from 66.4% to 67.9%.

Written in February and March, the department has described the supplementary exams as allowing candidates who did not meet the NSC requirements by one to three subjects “a second chance”.

But it has also announced plans to do away with the supplementary exams in March and merge them with the sitting of the senior certificate exams in June.

“The supplementary examination is not serving its intended purpose,” it said.

It was recently reported that the chairperson of the portfolio committee on Basic Education, Nomalungelo Gina, had said those who wrote in March only had a month to prepare following the release of results in January.

The department said streamlining the sittings of the two exams would prove more cost-effective and efficient.

The plan is to merge the exams from 2019.

Professor Wayne Hugo, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school of education and development, said the department was trying to “radically simplify” the system.

“In principle, if you were in a more developed country with a more developed economy and a more developed education system, the key thing you would do is look to differentiate and create alternate pathways,” Hugo said.

However, he said that to try to make an inefficient system to do too many things was going to cause “more disruptions, inefficiencies and chaos”.

“It’s not going to have the required effect. What you need with this education system is to create the simplest exit point possible and make as many people as possible able to exit the system that way. Because we’re a developing country, that makes sense,” said Hugo.

But he said the issue was that when you did that, you started stripping away the alternative pathways available to people.

“In South Africa, around 20% of pupils go through a fairly decent school system, and 80% don’t. You have to create pathways for them.

“One of the pathways is the supplementary exam; the reason a whole bunch don’t take it isn’t because they don’t want to – it is because life gets in the way.”

The Mercury