What does the matric pass rate actually tell us about the health of South Africa’s schooling system?

The annual matric pass rate is traditionally considered a measure of the health of our schooling system. This statistic is an important indicator for the basic education sector, but it does not tell us about learners’ pathways through school from Grade 1 to matric. 

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

Researchers have attempted to calculate the ‘true matric pass rate’ by taking a longitudinal view of a Grade 12 cohort – starting with the number of learners that enrolled in Grade 1. The findings are alarming; for instance, the ‘true matric pass rate’ for the 2008 Grade 12 cohort was calculated to be just 37%. Only a fraction of these learners went to university.

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