Western Cape May Have Highest Retention Rate
Statement by Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Minister of Education
On Monday, 5 January 2015, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will be announcing the 2014 National Senior Certificate (NSC) results for the country and the provinces.
The following day, the individual candidate and school results will be released.
When interpreting these results, it is important that key strategic factors in education are considered. At a press conference in September, the Premier and I indicated to the media and the public that when analysing the 2014 matric results it was important that the NSC results genuinely reflect improved performance in both quality and quantity.
The indicators that we regard as crucial in measuring the NSC performance, include increases in the numbers writing and passing their matric (ie: retention) and increases in the quality of passes – such as improving the number of candidates achieving access to a bachelor’s degree pass.
While some focus only on the pass rate, we have always considered the indicators above as the real indicators of success. This has been our measure of success for the past five years and will continue to be so come Monday.
In the Western Cape we have placed great emphasis on ensuring that 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.
We are particularly proud of the improvement in our rate of retention over the past five years – which is the highest retention rate in the country.
We take care to avoid the practice of “culling” to improve pass rates. “Culling” involves “losing” weak learners along the way so that schools and provinces can achieve a higher pass rate.
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.
Focusing on retaining learners does, however, have its challenges. It involves more attention, support and remedial action. There is also the risk of a higher percentage failure rate in the NSC.
In the 2014 NSC we have yet another factor to consider – the progression requirements implemented from the beginning of 2013 in terms of regulations passed by the National Minister which provide that learners cannot repeat more than once in a phase. In the FET band, this means that for the first time, we have learners writing the NSC, despite not passing grade 11.
These learners require even more assistance and support, and face a higher chance of failure than learners who have been promoted through the system due to merit and not through this system of progression.
Despite these challenges and our views on this specific policy, we believe that these learners still deserve the best opportunity to write and pass the NSC. We have supported these learners as far as possible throughout the year.
If a candidate does not succeed in passing the NSC, at least he or she has had the opportunity and will have the option, in some cases, to write a supplementary examination or rewrite certain subjects the following year – allowing them another opportunity to fulfil this important education milestone.
If we only compare the “pass rates” of provinces, we run the risk of encouraging provinces and schools to facilitate children “dropping out” of school as they could bring down the “pass rate”.
The 2013 NSC results are a prime example of how the percentage pass rate can be manipulated.
For example, in January 2014, on the release of the 2013 NSC results, it was announced that the Free State achieved the highest pass rate, followed by the North West Province, Gauteng and then the Western Cape. However, it soon became evident that the “pass rate” was in fact misleading and within a few days the more informed analysts started publishing data that revealed a different set of results.
What was published was the “real matric pass rate” – which is determined by comparing the numbers of learners enrolled two years prior (Grade 10) to that in which they write and pass the NSC.
It became clear that the Western Cape retained almost 20% more learners in the system than the Free State and 21.5% more than the North West, yet the Free State was credited with the highest “pass rates”. (See annexure A)
Ahead of the 2014 release a similar pattern has emerged.
If we look at the enrolment figures for the NSC in July 2014, as compared to the Grade 10 enrolment figures in 2012, it reveals that going into the NSC, the Western Cape far exceeds any of the other Provinces in terms of retention of candidates in the system, ie the numbers progressing through the system are greater.
|Pupils in grade 10 in 2012 – PO schools only||Numbers who are enrolled to write the 2014 NSC - PO schools only||% of numbers enrolled in 2014 compared to 2012||Ranking||% of learners not retained in the system since 2012|
|Eastern Cape||145 683||67 087||46%||5||54%|
|Free State||58 599||26 104||44.5%||6||55.5%|
|Gauteng||176 138||91 644||52%||3||48%|
|Limpopo||172 398||70 288||40.7%||8||59.3%|
|North West||67 409||26 001||38.5%||9||61.5%|
|Northern Cape||21 379||9 318||43.5%||7||56.5%|
|KwaZulu-Natal||259 326||134 835||55.4%||2||44.6%|
|Western Cape||73 114||46 730||63.8%||1||36.2%|
Please note this is the enrolment figures for Public Schools only. (Figures with independent schools included for enrolment in the NSC are in Annexure B)
While the Western Cape has a retention rate of 63.8%, the Free State has only retained 44.5% of the learners who were in Grade 10 two years ago, and the North West only 38.5%. In other words 55.5% of learners in the Free State and 61.5% in the North West were either “culled” or “dropped out” of school within a two year period.
Therefore, in provinces where there is a low retention rate, the majority of their candidates are their “top echelon” of learners – reducing the risk of having a high failure rate and a reduced number of “progressed candidates”.
While the Western Cape acknowledges that we could further improve our retention rate and the numbers enrolling and passing the NSC, we are proud that that our retention rate remains the highest in the country.
All Provinces should be actively trying to improve their retention rates instead of focusing only on the final pass rate – which has the opposite effect by encouraging learners to leave the system.
So on Monday, I will be looking at the retention rate and number of passes in the Western Cape, as well as the quality of the passes. We want to see more learners achieving their NSC and access to higher education to broaden their opportunities. That is ultimately what education is for.