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Cape Town - The dramatic surge in the number of candidates who passed their matric exams in Mpumalanga and the North West has been labelled questionable and unrealistic by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
The DA leader has called for an independent audit of the results.
This follows the announcement of the 2013 results on Monday, at which Minister for Basic Education Angie Motshekga lauded the class of 2013 for achieving the highest pass rate since 1994 – which shot up to 78.2 percent from 2012’s 73.9 percent.
The Western Cape achieved a pass rate of 85.1 percent, but the country’s usual top performer slipped to fourth.
The North West leapt by an astounding 7.7 percentage points to rank second at 87.2 percent and the Free State jumped 6.3 percentage points to claim top spot as South Africa’s most successful provincial matric class.
Mpumalanga came in below the Western Cape but jumped 7.6 percentage points to 77.6 percent.
Zille has attacked the credibility of these results.
“The credibility of the 2013 results has already been called into question by a number of educational experts, who pointed out that the results are too far a departure from the trends over the last several years.”
Some of the increases “in one year are near impossible to achieve in one school, let alone across an entire province”.
Robert Prince, UCT’s director of the Alternative Admissions Research Project, agreed that the sharp increase in passing matrics was a cause for concern.
“There is this constant push and drive within the department and schools to improve this number every year, and the question is: at what cost?”
Zille also complained that outside of the Western Cape, matric markers were not tested for their competence, subject knowledge or ability to interpret answers that were phrased differently from the exam memorandum.
Umalusi is the organisation that gave the green light to release the results. Its chairman, Sizwe Mabizela, expressed concern last week that the appointment of markers in some provinces was subject to political and union pressure.
Zille said: “This is completely unacceptable and undermines public confidence in the marking process.”
The DA leader also said it was clear that many schools were actively trying to work weaker students out of their system. “This practice of ‘culling’ academically weak students is reflected in the extraordinarily high dropout rates between Grade 10 and Grade 12 in some provinces.”
But the ANC has told the Western Cape Department of Education to “pull up its socks”.
The party’s Western Cape leader, Marius Fransman, said he was disappointed to note the province had slipped and could not make it among the first three provinces in the country.
“The Western Cape is still plagued by the highest dropout figure in the country and the DA failed to produce a provincial plan to ensure, especially rural learners, stay in school longer in order to improve their lives too.”
Education analyst Graeme Bloch agreed that the retention rate was a problem, with more than 50 percent of pupils dropping out of school before they wrote the matric exams. But he said this was a national issue.
The probe into the matric results – if it takes place – will not be limited to just a few provinces, but will be a nationwide endeavour and will open up the Western Cape to the same scrutiny.