Johannesburg - The main opposition Democratic Alliance said on Friday the real pass rate from last year's high school ending examinations was 37.6 percent, including students who did not write the tests in the expected timeframe or those that dropped out of school altogether.
Official results announced by basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday showed a 78.2 percent national pass rate for the matric class which finished grade 12 in 2018.
But the DA said the pass mark was much lower if all students who were in Grade 10 in 2016 were incorporated.
"These Grade 10s should be celebrating with other matriculants, but more than half didn’t write matric in the expected timeframe," the party's shadow minister of basic education Nomsa Marchesi said.
"This means only 37.6 percent of these Grade 10s passed matric. The others have either become stuck in a struggling education system repeating grades, or worse, dropped out of the system completely."
The DA said the "real" matric pass rate for each province revealed that only the Western Cape province - run by the party - managed to keep over 65 percent of its 2016 Grade 10s in school and through to writing matric on time.
It said in Gauteng province, which registered the highest pass rate in the official results, 45 percent of students who were in grade 10 in 2016 did not write matric last year.
"The Free State, with the highest drop out in the country, has a well-known reputation for ‘culling’, or intentionally keeping back learners to inflate pass marks," the DA's Marchesi said.
"The DA has repeatedly called for a national investigation into ‘culling’, but Minister Angie Motshekga is not concerned."
The DA said a new worry was the "multiple exam opportunity" system which some provinces had relied on more heavily than others.
It was not clear how many of these learners would actually return to complete their exams in June 2019, and many could be lost from the system in the interests of inflating provincial pass rates, it said.
"The DA’s priority is clear: to ensure that learners get the best quality matric in the expected timeframe so that they can start their journey into further education and employment on time and in good stead," the opposition party said.
"It is only through this commitment to quality education that learners will be able to break the cycle of poverty that so many young South Africans have been left trapped in by a failing ANC government."
African News Agency/ANA