Is the matric pass rate an accurate measure of the health of our schooling system?

The matric pass rate is traditionally considered a measure of the health of our schooling system and a key performance indicator by which the Minister of Basic Education is held to account. But what does this statistic actually tell us about learners’ pathways through school, particularly during a pandemic?

“Before the pandemic, around 2 out of 5 children who started Grade 1 dropped out before completing matric as a consequence of disruptions in their homes, schools and communities,” says Merle Mansfield, Programme Director of the Zero Dropout Campaign.

“The matric pass rate only tells us about the percentage of learners who wrote their exams and passed, but it does not tell us what percentage of the cohort of learners who started in Grade 1 actually made it to matric and passed,” Mansfield explains.

“Instead of focusing all our attention on the matric results each year, we should also set targets for dropout reduction so that more learners who start their schooling journey are able to finish,” says Mansfield.

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