In the 2015 matric results, the top-performing province was the Western Cape, with a pass rate of 84.7 percent. File picture: Timothy Bernard

Johannesburg - The quest to be the best-performing province when it comes to the matric results has heated up, with Gauteng accusing the Western Cape, Free State and North West of being overly competitive.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has accused the three provinces of wanting to be crowned the best-performing province at all costs.

At a media briefing last week, Lesufi said: “The provinces want to be the best performing at all costs, to the detriment of other learners.

"And the matric registration numbers have gone down.

“When you look at the Western Cape, the total number of their matric class is equal to our (Gauteng) bachelor passes last year.”

He praised KwaZulu-Natal for not keeping its pupils in Grade 11. KZN has the highest number of registered pupils at 170631, while Gauteng has 112 111 full-time candidates.

The Western Cape has reduced the number of full-time candidates from 56562 in 2015 to 53146 this year. North West has increased its from 33845 to 35397, while the Free State has gone down from 35209 to 29 091 registered candidates.

In the 2015 matric results, the top-performing province was the Western Cape, with a pass rate of 84.7 percent, up from 82.4 percent in 2014. Gauteng had an 84.2 percent pass rate, Free State 81.6 percent and North West 81.5 percent.

Free State has denied the claim, saying that in 2015 it had the highest number of progressed pupils in matric. Basic Education policy states that pupils may not fail an education band more than twice. If they do, they're progressed to the next grade.

Free State education spokesperson Howard Ndaba said that through their matric support, which comprises a number of academic support interventions, the province had the second largest number of progressed pupils who passed matric.

“The new criterion to be applied as of 2016 to determine the leading province in the 2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams has factored in tracking of learners' progress in the FET band.

"Curtailing learners in either Grade 10 or 11 will work against any province. The Free State started four years ago to support Grade 8-11 learners as part of its strategy to build a strong secondary schooling system.”

Western Cape education spokesperson Jessica Shelver said statistics from Basic Education show Gauteng has a retention rate of 58.24 percent; thus the system lost 41.76 percent of pupils between 2014 and 2016.

“In the Western Cape we've managed to retain 66.99 percent of our learners, losing 33.01 percent. We've placed great emphasis on ensuring we keep as many learners in the school system for as long as possible and that they get the opportunity to write and pass their NSC,” Shelver said.

Instead of focusing on the pass rate, provincial departments should focus more on pupil retention, she added. “Provinces should be improving their retention rates instead of focusing only on the final pass rate."

Matric results are expected to be out on January 5.

The Star