Explained: The Second Chance Programme

The Zero Dropout Campaign is focused on helping learners to stay in and succeed at school. We also want to support young people who didn’t finish high school by giving them the information they need to make informed decisions about their options.

Each learner’s reasons for leaving school are different and depend on their personal circumstances. We think of dropout as a process rather than an event, because it comes at the end of a long period of disengagement in which a learner is pushed or pulled away from school.

Years later, many of these learners may want to get their Senior Certificate, but are not sure how to do it. Some may not even know what options are available to them or where to find support and resources. While there are options available for different categories of learners, it’s important to note that access to learning resources, a good support system, and commitment are all necessary for a successful outcome.

The Department of Basic Education has a Second Chance programme for learners who failed subjects in their matric year and want to re-write their exams. It also caters to learners who exited the school system before they even got to matric.

Although a matric certificate does not guarantee that a person will find a job, research shows that people are 8 % more likely to find employment if they have successfully completed Grade 12 and those with a matric certificate earn on average 39% more than those who don’t1)https://www.parliament.gov.za/storage/app/media/Pages/2017/october/High_Level_Panel/Commissioned_reports_for_triple_challenges_of_poverty_unemployment_and_inequality/Diagnostic_Report_on_Quality_Education.pdf.

I didn’t finish high school, what are my options?

If you are 21 years or older and you were able to complete Grade 9 before leaving school, you can register with the Department of Basic Education to write the Senior Certificate exams. You would need to have a copy of your school report to show that you passed Grade 9 in order to apply for the programme (visit the department’s website to see what documents you need to enrol).

Where do I register?

Registration can be done online or at any education district office (you will find a list of where to locate these offices online).

Tip: Check the department’s website to know when the registration process opens for each year’s intake.

What subjects can I take?

Candidates must do six subjects to qualify for the Senior Certificate (you can find more details about the subjects here).

When do I write my exams?

The Senior Certificate exams are usually written in May and June. The exams represent 100% of your final mark, because there are no other school-based assessments. You will write the exams at designated centres in your province.

What are the minimum requirements to pass the exam?

You have to pass three subjects at 40%, one of which must be an official language at Home Language level. You must pass two subjects at 30%, one of which must be an official language at First Additional or Home Language level, and you would have to obtain a “subminimum” of 20% in the sixth subject.

Where can I find support and study material?

There are curriculum-aligned resources available on the department’s website for each subject or you can visit your provincial education office for information. You will also find an exam guideline and sample questions online. It’s a good idea to find out if there is a night school in your area so that you can attend classes and get additional support from a teacher.

If you want to learn more about what to do if you failed your matric exam, check out Youth Capital’s website for additional information about your options.


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