600 President Jacob Zuma talks about the way forward after clinching the second term as the leader of the ANC and of the country on the last day of the 53rd congress in Mangaung, Bloemfontein. 201212. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma on Thursday congratulated the matrics who passed, and urged those who failed not to give up hope.

The improvement in the national pass rate from 70.2 percent in 2011 to 73.9 percent was "outstanding", he said in a statement issued by the presidency.

"I would like to make a special plea to all those who did not make it not to lose hope, but to pick themselves up and try harder.

"Time is still on their side. They are still at the prime of their age so they have an opportunity to try again."

Zuma said that those who did not attain a pass to study at university should enrol at a further education and training college.

He said the decision to split the education department into the basic and tertiary departments had begun to bear fruit.

The results of recent annual national assessments in literacy and numeracy in lower grades showed much more still needed to be done, he said. - Sapa