Cape Town 140108- Riccardo Mkosini, Tina Ngqola and Nosibusiso Nkuthwana from Rusthof high look for their names in the Cape Argus newspaper. Picture Cindy waxa. Reporter Argus

The Department of Basic Education has lashed out at the DA, calling the party a bad loser for requesting an independent audit into the credibility of the 2013 matric results.

The dramatic surge in the number of candidates who passed their matric exams in Mpumalanga and the North West was yesterday labelled questionable and unrealistic by DA leader Helen Zille.

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.

North West leapt by 7.7 percentage points to rank second at 87.2 percent and Free State jumped 6.3 percentage points to claim top spot as South Africa’s most successful matric class. Mpumalanga came in below the Western Cape but jumped 7.6 percentage points to 77.6 percent.

Education department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi saw Zille’s call as a case of sour grapes. He said the call for an investigation was probably motivated by the DA being unhappy with the Western Cape having – in recent years – slipped from being the best-performing province to position four.

While the DA-run Western Cape improved its pass rate to 85.1 percent last year, the increase was by a modest 2.3 percentage points.

“In 2008, when the Western Cape improved by 7 percent to occupy position one, no investigation was requested. It is clear the DA think they have the birthright to be the number one province at all costs. They are indeed poor competitors, it is either them or no one.”

Zille had called for an independent audit and 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,” she said.

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 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 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.” -Cape Argus