Janke Van Dyk from Bellville High School is the top achiever in the country. Picture: Noni Mokati/IOL

Cape Town - Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer has congratulated the 82.8% of learners in the Western Cape who passed the 2017 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination, and said the province had also performed well in other key measurements.

In a statement, Schäfer said that while there is a tendency to focus solely on the provincial pass rate, which is an important indicator, other important indicators of success also needed to be taken into consideration to determine if the system is ultimately improving or where it needs to be improved.

"Traditionally, this province has put particular emphasis on the retention of learners in the system, those achieving access to a Bachelor’s Degree, and pass rates for mathematics and science," she said. "We are thus especially pleased that the Western Cape has again achieved the highest percentage of bachelor’s passes in the country, with 39.1% of learners achieving this quality pass. In Mathematics, the Western Cape achieved the highest pass rate, achieving 73.9%.

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"In Physical Sciences, the Western Cape achieved a pass rate of 74.0%. This places us second in the country to the Free State in this subject for 2017. We congratulate the Free State on this achievement, as well as taking first place in the country in terms of pass rate."

The results, which were released by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on Thursday, showed that the country matric pass rate with progressed learners included, stands at 75.1 percent, a 2.6 percent improvement from the 72.5 percent achieved in 2016.  

Schäfer added that more learners in the Western Cape are taking maths and science as a percentage of the cohort, "something that we have been encouraging over a number of years". 

"While the overall cohort in the Western Cape was 2 000 learners smaller than 2016, the number of learners taking maths and science only decreased by 703 and 329 respectively."

Schäfer further lauded the top performing learners from the province, including Janke Van Dyk from Bellville High School who was the top achiever in the country, and Matthys Carstens from Durbanville High School who was placed second.

She said it was noteworthy that the learners attended a public school.

All eight Education Districts in the Western Cape achieved over 80% pass rate and Schäfer singled out the Overberg district that achieved 10th place in the country out of 70 districts with a pass rate of 87.7%.

According to the statement, the Western Cape Government has said year on year, that when considering the NSC results, one had to consider the numbers of learners passing through the system and ultimately passing their matric.

"We believe that retaining more learners in the system and giving them the opportunity to pass the NSC is more important than 'losing' learners along the way so that schools can achieve a higher pass rate," she said. "We believe that this practice defeats the purpose of education for these children and is unacceptable. It denies them the opportunity to succeed, no matter what challenges lie before them.

"We are thus disappointed that the Minister made no mention at all of the inclusive basket of criteria that has been piloted for the last two years. Last year, taking into account these quality indicators, especially retention, the Western Cape was the Number 1 performing province. 

"When considering the NSC pass rate, we must consider the retention of learners by comparing the number of learners enrolled for the NSC exams (and the number who actually wrote the full exam) to the number of Grade 10 learners enrolled two years before that. This is known as the 'Real Matric pass rate'.

According to Schäfer the results of the "real matric pass rate" for the 2017 NSC show a very different ranking to that announced by the national minister on Thursday night.

"It is clear that the Western Cape has retained the most learners in the system between Grades 10 and 12 – with a retention rate of 12.8 percentage points higher than Gauteng, and 22 percentage points higher than the Free State," Schäfer said. "While it is always nice to be Number 1, in the Western Cape our focus will remain on whether we have increased the numbers of candidates passing, and the quality of those passes."

She added that her department was currently analysing the results to determine which schools did not perform well and in which subject areas.

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African News Agency/ANA