By Leanne Jansen Nontobeko Mtshali, Kristen van Schie, and Sapa
Durban - A Durban boy has been named top matric pupil for the country in quintile five. Westville Boys’ High pupil Asil Motala, who earned eight distinctions, spoke to The Mercury from Joburg on Monday, where he was attending a press conference for the top 25 pupils in the country, hosted by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
The dux pupil said: “I’m excited, but also nervous. I’ve aimed for good matric results since Grade 10.”
Quintile five is the category comprising the most affluent schools.
The matric pass rate was 78.2 percent, 4.3 percentage points higher than last year’s 73.9 percent and the highest for 20 years.
Motshekga said the top-performing province was the Free State with an 87.4 percent pass rate, up from 81.1 in 2012.
KwaZulu-Natal scored 77.4 percent compared to 73.1 percent in 2012.
The pass rate had exceeded the target by reaching 78.2 percent. The department had aimed for a 75 percent pass rate by 2014.
Reacting to the results, educationists said the quality of passes was paramount with the need to look beyond the pass percentages.
The figures which needed scrutinising were how many pupils passed well enough to qualify to apply to study for a degree or diploma, how well pupils passed the so-called gateway subjects, and how many pupils made it from Grade 1 to Grade 12.
Motshekga announced that the Umlazi district (greater Durban) was KZN’s best performing district, with a pass rate of 83.7 percent.
Anthony Pierce, the KZN head of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said it had to be born in mind that there were a number of affluent schools in this district.
They include former model C schools Durban Girls’ High, Danville Park Girls, Kingsway High and Glenwood High, but also high-achieving township schools such as Menzi High and Velabahleke High.
“Once the euphoria is behind us, we will begin to analyse the results in greater detail and identify the areas where we have not done well. The number of bachelor’s passes in KZN is up. The retention rate is also significant. The worn cliché of the born-frees must be analysed to see how many came through the system.
Professor Labby Ramrathan, associate professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school of education, said that on a grand scale, numbers meant little and that quality was measured in terms of how many pupils passed maths and achieved bachelor’s passes.
“Learner drop-out has been a major cause of concern for many years. Credit to the pupils, teachers and parents, who have persevered.”
Allen Thompson, deputy head of the National Teachers Union, said he was “excited” because the effects of teaching during holidays and after school were paying dividends.
The 2013 National Senior Certificate was written by 562 112 full-time and 92 611 part-time candidates; 171 755 of the pupils got a bachelor pass, qualifying them to study at university. This was an increase from the 26.6 percent bachelor degree pass rate scored by the class of 2012.
Motshekga strongly defended the standard of the papers, saying they had gone through international benchmarking processes which improved them “significantly”.
Umalusi had instigated a “vigorous verification of all our exam processes”, leaving them “free, fair and credible”.
During his technical report briefing, the acting director-general, Paddy Padayachee, said a bachelor’s pass, however, did not guarantee entrance to university as institutions had their own selection criteria.
Provinces had increased their pass rates, and subject performances across the board had also improved.
“The NSC results over the last five years have improved. The focus is now on improving the quality of the passes,” said Padayachee.
“I want to thank you for being the best class since the advent of democracy,” Motshekga said to pupils.