News

Western Cape celebrates matric success

10 January 2019

A very warm welcome to everyone, to this last matric awards celebration for this term of office. It is definitely one of my favourite events of the year.

Unfortunately, the Premier is not able to join us today, but she has very kindly allowed us to continue with our tradition of hosting the annual matric awards ceremony at this lovely residence. She has asked me to convey her sincere apologies for not being able to join us today, and to thank all our staff, and especially our district directors, for a job well done.

I am particularly sorry she cannot be here this time, as whatever happens to the rest of us after May, this is definitely her last matric awards ceremony as Premier of the Western Cape, a position she will have held for 10 years. This is the longest anyone has been Premier of our wonderful province, and I would like us to start by acknowledging and paying tribute to her today.

ENG: Today is a day of celebration.

XHOSA: Namhlanje yimini yovuyo.

AFR: Vandag is 'n dag van feesviering.

I am honoured and proud to be here to celebrate today the outstanding successes of schools and individual learners from throughout the province in the 2018 National Senior Certificate examinations.

Today we are here to pay tribute to the stars in our province who have done so well, and who are lighting the way for other individuals and provinces, as well as for communities that experience many difficulties. These people are showing that nothing is impossible, even if you have difficulties to confront.

Last year has been a challenging one for many reasons. We have had the drought to contend with, which forced us to redirect crucial funding for infrastructure to ensure that our schools are as prepared as possible for water shortages.

Many learners also live in areas that saw an increase in politically motivated protest action, which no doubt had an effect on their schools and on their ability to concentrate on studying for the exams. In some cases, we had to make alternative arrangements for learners writing in their finals to be transported to other venues. I am pleased that communities on the West Coast heard our pleas to ensure that learners reached their exam venues on time.

At the start of the NSC exam period we also had many grade 12 learners affected by the fires in Khayelitsha, Kosovo, Vrygrond and Knysna. Many Grade 12 learners lost everything they owned, some risked life and limb to save their textbooks and ID books from the fires that ravished their homes. Other learners lost family members and in one case, a Grade 12 learner in Knysna lost 9 family members. She continued writing her exams and passed!

There is a saying that goes "you don't know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice that you have". And I must say that I am struck by the resilience and determination of our learners who showed strength and fortitude during these difficult periods.

These are just some of the challenges faced by learners during this exam period. Ongoing challenges that our learners are faced with include living in communities that are plagued by gangsterism and social ills. In communities where they are not sure whether they will make it to school and back because of gang warfare. In communities where, if you make the brave decision not to join a gang, you become a target. Just this year we lost 3 Grade 12 learners due to alleged gang violence.

I would also like to specially mention schools that are plagued by gangsterism and violence, and yet have improved their results significantly.

One of these schools is Masibambisane HS in Delft South which I visited last week. The reason I chose this school was specifically for their remarkable improvement in their NSC results. This school was classified as an underperforming school in 2017, with a pass rate of only 48.1%. Through various interventions, their pass rate then increased, and in 2018 they achieved a pass rate of 79.1%, an increase of 31.1%, and doubled their percentage of bachelors' passes. AND they had almost exactly the same number of learners writing matric as last year! About which more later.

Particular mention must be made of the efforts of District Director, Mr David Millar, Circuit Manager Ms Nobesuthu Mjila, and principal Mr Khayaletu Boesman. Whilst I do know that a lot of hard work went into this achievement, my impression when the learners received their results was certainly that all those involved felt the effort was worth it.

It is noteworthy that, despite the fact that this school is in an area plagued by very difficult circumstances, they have managed to turn things around.

The reason for the turnaround has been a sustained and concerted effort by all role-players - the parents, the learners themselves, the teachers, principals and district officials. Education really is a team effort, and congratulations to all involved.

I also want to mention another wonderful success story, and that is Langa High School. For the last few years, the school's matric results have been unacceptably low - in 2015 it had a 41.9% pass rate. in 2016, it dropped to 34.3%. We decided to approach the school about becoming one of our new collaboration schools in 2017. After quite a lot of scepticism, it was agreed. In the 2017 NSC they achieved 49.7% and in 2018 they achieved a 78% pass rate! Again, well done to all involved!

I am also proud of our schools that worked hard and consistently throughout the year, and in fact for many years.

Important to note is that

  • 15.7% of our schools (or 70 schools) achieved a 100% pass rate, while almost 40% of schools (or 137 schools) achieved a pass rate of 90% or above.
  • 31 schools achieved a 90% bachelor's pass rate.

 
Congratulations must also go to Rhenish Girls High School, which is the only government school in the province that has achieved 100% pass rate and 100% bachelors passes. Very well done.

So, I must say that this year we not only celebrate that our indicators of quality show a sustained improvement in the Western Cape. but we celebrate the resilience, determination and perseverance of our learners who in the face of adversity and massive challenges have shown great courage and managed to pass their NSC exams.

To the candidates here today, I would like to congratulate you for the hard work that you have put into your studies throughout your school years. Learners' attitude and application are required to improve learning outcomes both in the classroom and outside the school. To achieve such outstanding results takes dedication and commitment throughout your entire school career.
I am sure many of you will attest to this. Your hard work has now paid off, and we are all very proud of your achievements.

Every year I choose at least one candidate for special acknowledgement for their achievements despite difficult circumstances.

This year I want to thank the districts for the number and quality of the nominations received. It really was extremely difficult to make a decision as to who the award should go to, so I have chosen three, and I wish it could have been more.

I don't easily get emotional, but I was almost crying when I read some of them, and I have no doubt that you will be later when you hear the citations, although you will not hear all the details because of time.

Learners from desperately poor homes, orphans, victims of horrendous crime, fires and people facing mental illness. I am truly humbled by the adversity that some people have to face, and yet they have done so - and passed, some with Bachelor's passes.

You guys are absolute heroes.

I also want to pay a special tribute to Keisha Ruiters from Hoerskool Marian RC, who wrote her finals whilst dying from leukaemia. Firstly, sincere condolences to her family, friends and school. Keisha became gravely ill on the day she wrote History paper 2 on 21 November. She was admitted to hospital and wrote English HL Paper 3 and Afrikaans FAL Paper 3 in hospital. Keisha wrote her last exam on 26 November. She passed away on Tuesday 4 December.

She achieved a bachelors pass with a 71.6% average and 94% for history. My heartfelt congratulations to her mother for raising such a remarkable young woman. I hope she will serve as an inspiration to many.

During the course of reading the nominations for the Ministerial award, it also struck me once again what so many of our educators do for these children who have nothing.
Thank you to every one of you who do things every day to help those who do not have the help they need, who do not have parents or families who care, and some of whom don't even have a place to live. You do this out of the goodness of your hearts, often out of your own pockets, and from a genuine care for your fellow human beings. You are a real asset to this province.

Now, onto the subject of this year's results.

I am sure that, like me, when you heard we had dropped just over a percent, you felt that it was not exactly the news we were hoping to hear. Fascinating to me is the fact that the media is reporting that we dropped from just over 84%, when it was actually 82.8%.

We are one of only 2 provinces that dropped in our pass rate.

But when I started looking closer, I felt somewhat better.

The Western Cape Government has always maintained, and that includes when we were number one, that indicators of quality go well beyond the pure percentage pass rate. We focus on quality of passes, and retention of as many learners as possible in the school system, so that we can ensure the best possible opportunities for our young people in the Western Cape.

I am therefore pleased that yet again, our indicators of quality show a sustained improvement.

We achieved an increase in the percentage of bachelor's passes, with 42.3% of learners achieving this quality pass. This is an increase of 3.2% from 2017, with an increase in the number of candidates achieving this from 19 101 in 2017 to 21 492 in 2018.

We know that maths and science are crucial for the growth of our economy and to fill the scarce skills gaps.

I am therefore pleased that we saw improvements in the pass rates in both mathematics and physical sciences.

In Mathematics, the Western Cape again achieved the highest pass rate, increasing from 73.9% in 2017 to 76%. Pleasingly, we have by far the highest pass rate of learners achieving 50% or more.

In Physical Science, the Western Cape achieved a pass rate of 79.5%, an increase from 72.0% in 2017.

I think it is fair to say that the Western Cape has established itself as a leading province in maths and science results, and we certainly continue to feature very strongly in the DBE awards in these subjects.

So, how is it that we dropped in our percentage pass?

The answer to this lies in a combination of the numbers retained (or sometimes NOT retained) in school from Grade 10 to grade 12, as well as the information that the DBE does NOT publish in the technical report, and that is the number of learners who, over the last three years, have "chosen" to write what is called the MEO - Multiple Exam Opportunity.

I say "chosen" because there are varying reports about how much choice has been given to learners to sit the full exam. But the effect of this is that these learners do not sit the full exam at the end of the year and their results are accordingly not taken into account in the calculation of the percentage pass. One does not have to be a mathematician to figure out that if you have a lower denominator you have a higher percentage.

So, the question is - why has DBE not published this figure as part of the NSC technical report?

I am going to offer a bold suggestion here - it is because I am quite confident that there will be a very high correlation between the increase in percentage of the cohort writing the MEO, and the increase or decrease in pass percentage in a province. In plain language, large numbers of learners are not writing the full exam, which artificially inflates the percentages of some provinces, and artificially decreases them in others.

The Western Cape has 2 187 additional learners who wrote matric in 2018 compared to 2017. This is a higher number than any other province. In fact, five other provinces have a decrease in the numbers who wrote last year, whilst claiming increases in numbers of learners in schools. How is this possible? I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

So, I have a challenge for the DBE and the other provinces. Publish the statistics of numbers and percentages of the cohorts over each of the last three years, of learners who have written the MEO.

Here are our figures:

In 2016 - 899 learners wrote the MEO, which was 1.8% of the matric cohort.
2017 - 1 254 learners wrote the MEO, which was 2.6% of the matric cohort.
2018 - 1 470 learners wrote the MEO last year, which is 2.9% of our matric cohort.

Our retention rate from Grades 10 to 12 is the highest in the country, at around 63%. Not a single other province managed to achieve over a 50% retention rate.

I can see the value of the MEO in principle, and for a period, if it will help people to pass who otherwise would not. But let us not pretend that this means an improvement in the system. Let us ensure that the numbers are publicly known, to ensure accountability and oversight, so as to avoid any temptation to use them as a mechanism of preventing weaker learners from writing the full exam and thus reducing our pass rates.

I am also concerned that while DBE highlighted the percentage pass rate of the progressed candidates, they failed to mention the very low number of progressed candidates that actually wrote the final exam. In 2018, 128 634 progressed candidates entered the NSC nationally, while only 33 412 candidates wrote the NSC, according to the DBE technical report. Where are the missing 95 222 candidates? In some provinces 86% of progressed candidates that enrolled to write the NSC did not write the NSC.

In this instance, the Western Cape again has the lowest percentage of learners that did not write the NSC.

This is also why I believe that it is crucial to abolish the league table as we know it, and establish a league table that takes into account indicators of quality and retention in the system in order to provide a more realistic picture of how well we are doing as a sector.

When taking into account all the above, I think we have done well to retain a pass percentage of over 80% and third position in the country.

That is NOT to say we are happy with where we are, and we will continue to analyse our results and intervene where we can to try and improve.

I want to thank Umalusi also for their work. I am pleased that they have taken a strong stand on the issue of inequalities in marking between provinces. One does have to wonder why we remain the only province to administer competency tests for our matric markers in major subjects. I would like to ask that this year they look very carefully at how people writing the MEO as a percentage of the cohort affects the outcomes and do what they can to assure South Africa that percentages are indicative of real improvement in the system, not a reflection of removing weaker learners from it.

Now back to our achievers.

A huge congratulations must go to the following learners, who were acknowledged at the DBE's ceremony last week.

  1. Top candidate in the Country - Justine Crook Mansour - Rustenburg GHS
  2. Top candidate in Quintile 2 - Kamva Goso - Intsebenziswano HS
  3. 2nd in Maths - Timothy Schlesinger - Rondebosch BHS
  4. 3rd in Maths - Liam Edward Gurney - Westerford HS
  5. 2nd in Physical Sciences - Kamva Goso - Intsebenziswano HS
  6. 3rd in Physical Sciences - Jean Durand - Paul Roos Gymnasium
  7. 3rd in Sign Language Home Language - Ancilla Julius - Dominican School for the Deaf
  8. 3rd in Special Needs Education - Lisa Marie Van Wyk - Pionier School for the Blind

This was the first time that Technical Maths and Science were part of the NSC. They were challenging, but I am sure that they will become more manageable as they become more settled in the system.

We have been acknowledging technical schools since the start of my term of office, and I am pleased that technical education is receiving more focus nationally. We really do need more technical skills in our country.

This year, for the first time, we will be awarding two new arts categories - Visual Arts and Dramatic Arts. There is a growing concern worldwide that the Arts have been neglected and that this is negatively affecting a holistic education. The winner of the Global Teacher of the Year Award last year, Andria Zafirakou, has established an NGO with her one million dollar winnings, to promote arts in schools. I am very pleased that she will be joining us at our education summit in March this year!

Before my final remarks, to all our young stars here today - I wish you the very best as you embark on a new chapter of your life. My only advice to you is that there are no secrets to success. There is only one place where success comes before work, and that is in the dictionary. Work hard, learn from your mistakes, never lose your integrity, and never give up. Also, be careful how you measure success - work out what is important to you, and do not compromise on it.

And please use your considerable talents to better the future of our country - we need them!

THANK YOU!

We would not have seen an improvement in our quality indicators without hard work, and I would like to thank all the teachers, principals, district officials and their support teams for their hard work and commitment to education in the Western Cape.

Thanks must also go to the educator unions, governing body associations, universities and various education organisations for the role that they have played in supporting the efforts of the WCED in 2018.

I would also like to thank the WCED's examinations team for their hard work in ensuring that these exams have run smoothly, and delivered a credible result. While most other people were having a break, they were hard at work. I imagine it must feel like a mother with a young baby who has to be awake in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping! So thank you for your dedication.

Thank you also to Tina Singh and her team who have organised today's event.

I must also make special mention of one of Andre Clausen. Andre Clausen started as the Director of Examinations 21 years and 4 months ago. In total, Andre has served the Department for 43 years and 8 months. Andre - I know that you have sacrificed many December holidays with your family to ensure the smooth running of the exams, the marking process as well as the resulting of all learners, and more importantly ensuring that the integrity of the exams in protected. You have served the department with integrity and dedication and I must thank you for your commitment and hard work.

So in appreciation for your dedication to education, may we give Andre a round of applause. Andre, my warmest wishes go to you as you retire at the end of this month.

And lastly but by no means least, I would like to specially mention, with gratitude and appreciation, a number of sponsors who have generously donated the prizes for today. Appletiser, Mustek, Lenovo, the MTN foundation, Pinnacle Africa and Pearson South Africa - thank you for your contribution.

One way or another, we will all benefit from your generosity today.

As a province, we are committed to ensuring that every learner in every classroom receives a quality education. We still have a long way to go, but progress to date is undeniable.

Now let us celebrate what we have achieved.

Media Enquiries: 

Jessica Shelver
Cell: 076 175 0663
Email: Jessica.Shelver@westerncape.gov.za