Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, Delivered at the Release of NSC Examination Results for 2017 held at SABC – Radio, Auckland Park
04 January 2017
Good Evening Fellow South Africans!
Strategic direction in the basic education sector
Today we have gathered here to announce the 2017 National Senior Certificate examination results. The NSC examination results, are one of the most important barometers to evaluate progress made by Government in improving access, redress, equity, efficiency, and the quality of teaching and learning outcomes, through the implementation of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework and the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NLSA).
As we implement our Medium-Term Strategic Framework and the NSLA, we have an obligation to ensure a seamless implementation of the regional, continental and international declarations, as well as the recommendations from regional and international assessment studies, in order to ensure that the critical principles of access, redress, equity, efficiency and quality, anchor our work, programmes, interventions, progress, and achievements.
Building a solid and foundation for teaching and learning
We should always remember that if we have to further improve the outcomes of the schooling system, we will have to continue to improve the fundamental quality of teaching and learning, well before Grade 12.
We are increasingly prioritising interventions and policies that target an improved quality of learning and teaching, and implementing accountability systems to ensure that quality outcomes are achieved. More specifically, we have deliberately prioritised early Grade literacy. This is necessary to respond pointedly to the concerns raised in the PIRLS 2016, SACMEQ IV – 2013, and the TIMMS 2015 reports. These reports are available in our website.
2017 National Senior Certificate Examination Results
As we analyse the 2016 NSC examination results, we wish to remind the South African public about the main purpose of the National Senior Certificate examinations. The primary purpose of these examinations is to provide learners with an exit qualification. We however, are able to also glean on the progress we are making as a country to provide access to an inclusive, equitable, quality and efficient basic education to our children. These results are intended to do exactly just that.
The effects of our interventions are beginning to result in improved teaching and learning outcomes. We have reported that the skills of learners have improved. Ambitious policy shifts by government, combined with the efforts and commitment of the thousands of people who work in our schools, especially our principals, teachers and parents, are paying off. Available scientific comparisons of the quality of learning outcomes over time, indicate noteworthy improvements in recent years.
Profile: Class of 2017
The Class of 2017 is the tenth cohort of learners to sit for the National Senior Certificate, and the fourth cohort to write CAPS-aligned NSC Examinations. The Class of 2017 has recorded the third highest enrolment of Grade 12 learners in the history of the basic education system in South Africa.
The total number of candidates, who registered for the November 2017 NSC examinations, was 802 431; comprising 629 155 full-time candidates, and 173 276 part-time candidates. Of these candidates, 534 484 full-time candidates, and 117 223 part-time candidates, wrote the 2017 NSC examinations.
2017 NSC examinations declared as “incident free”
Fellow South Africans, I am glad to announce that the Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, has declared the 2017 NSC examinations as “fair, valid and credible“. Umalusi declared that the 2017 NSC examinations were “largely incident free”, with a few minor disruptions in some parts of the country. This, Umalusi said, is testament “to the success of the heightened vigilance and rigid measures put in place by the DBE”.
Performance of the progressed learners
The criteria for learner progression introduced in 2013, were streamlined in 2017. The South African public will recall the learner progression policy encouraged provinces to progress or condone over-aged learners, who have repeated Grade 11 more than once, and give them extra support to sit for the NSC examinations; or allow them to modularise their examinations. In the latter case, progressed learners wrote part of the 2017 NSC examinations in November 2017, and the rest could be written in June 2018.
The support provided to progressed learners by provinces is important, particularly for learners who come from poorer communities. You know that affluent communities arrange extra tuition for their children at extra costs. Provinces on the other hand, go out of their way to provide progressed learners with extra support; and this, provinces do without any additional budget.
Consequently, in 2017, we saw the second largest number of progressed learners, since the policy was promulgated in 2013. An analysis of the raw data on progressed learners paints, an extremely interesting picture, particularly for this year. For the Class of 2017, we had 107 430 registered progressed learners.
34 011 progressed learners wrote the requisite seven subjects during the 2017 NSC examinations. The rest of the learners, are modularising their examinations, as I had already explained earlier. Of the progressed learners, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, 18 751 passed; which represents 55.1% of all progressed learners, and 4.7% of all learners, who passed the 2017 NSC examinations. 5.6% achieved Bachelor passes; 25.2% achieved Diploma passes; 24.3% achieved Higher Certificate passes; and 10 achieved NSC passes. A total of 1 801 distinctions was attained, including distinctions in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics and Physical Science.
The significance of these achievements, is that the 18 751 progressed learners, who passed the 2017 NSC examinations – the would-be-high-school repeaters and dropouts if they were not progressed, now have a golden opportunity to access either university or TVET College.
This is positive indeed, especially when the NDP enjoins us to mediate the high drop-out rate of learners from the basic schooling system by increasing the learner retention rate to 90%, and allowing for an increase in the number of learners entering vocational and occupational pathways. The second chance programme, the learner progression policy, and the incremental introduction of the three-stream model – which include quality technical-vocational and quality technical-occupational programmes in the Basic Education sector, directly address this NDP directive.
I wish to remind South Africans that the second chance programme and the learner progression policy were introduced to redress the inequalities of the past, by creating a conduit through which young people could be afforded a second chance in life, rather than adding to the large number of young people, who are neither in education, nor employed, nor in any form of training – the so-called NEETs. These programmes were intended to improve the access and retention of learners in the system, and improve the internal efficiency of the system.
We wish to thank all provinces, especially Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu Natal for the extra support and pointed interventions they gave to these learners. If these provinces did not do this, some of the progressed young people, could have fallen through the cracks of the system, due to continuous repetition and ultimate drop-out from the system. We encourage the other provinces to take a leaf from these four provinces, which supported the progressed learners to the extent necessary.
Learners with Special Education Needs
We strongly believe that an Inclusive Education system, makes an immense contribution towards an inclusive economy to serve an inclusive society. Providing learners with special education needs access to quality basic education programmes, is an imperative, based on the Constitutional principles of equity and redress, among others. We have for the past few years included the learners with special education needs in tracking learner performance in the NSC.
2 777 learners with special education needs, wrote 2017 NSC examinations – an increase of 42.8% from 2016. 906 and 789 of these learners achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes, respectively. 307 achieved Higher Certificate passes; 2 achieved NSC passes; and 121 achieved endorsed NSC passes.
This means that 77.2% of the learners with special education needs, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, passed. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal should be congratulated for their combined contribution of Bachelor passes of 80.2% – an increase of 3.5% from 2016; and the combined contribution of Diploma passes of 70.1% – an increase of 4.1% from 2016.
1 956 distinctions were achieved by the learners with special education needs, including distinctions in the critical subjects, such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics and Physical Science. The Western Cape’s contribution, is the largest with 1 599 distinctions.
The benefits of the “pro-poor” policies of Government on the Grade 12 examination results, with progressed learners included
In the 2017 NSC examination results, the poverty ranking of schools in terms quintiles 1 to 5, revealed the following interesting trends. The NSC passes for quintiles 1 to 3 schools (“no fee” schools) combined, stand at 243 260; compared to 138 525 for quintiles 4 and 5 schools (fee-paying schools).
The Bachelor passes achieved by learners in “no fee” schools, stand at 76 300; while fee-paying schools produced 67 867 Bachelor. This implies that in 2017, “no fee” schools produced 53% of the Bachelor passes (compared to 52% in 2016, and 51% in 2015); while fee-paying schools produced 47% Bachelor passes (compared to 48% in 2016, and 49% in 2015). The significance of this, is that the gap between the Bachelor passes produced by “no fee” schools versus those produced by fee-paying schools in 2016 of 4%, has increased to 6% in 2017.
This is poignant, as it points to a remarkable shift in the balance of forces. From 2015 to date, greater equity was observed despite the reality that inequalities still remain in the system. Government must be applauded for its pro-poor polices, which in the Basic Education arena, alleviate poverty through a variety of interventions – among others, the pro-poor funding of schools; the provision of nutritious meals on a daily basis; and the provision of scholar transport to deserving learners on daily basis.
These interventions, called the “social wage” by the Statistics South Africa, continue to improve access to schools, increase the retention of learners in schools, promote equity immeasurably in the Basic Education system; and improve substantively the quality of educational outcomes in our system. What a great story to tell!!!
The 2017 NSC examination results are also telling us that, for every fee-paying school, which achieved at 60% to 79.9% pass rate, there are more than five “no fee” schools achieving at the same level. Similarly, for every fee-paying school, achieving at the 80% to 100% pass rate, there are almost two “no fee” schools achieving at the same pass rate. An exactly 100% pass rate, was achieved equally by fee-paying as well as “no fee” schools. This is indeed a good story to tell!!!
In February 2017 I tasked the National Education Evaluation Unit in the Department to conduct a study on Schools that Work, and particularly lift the characteristics of both primary and secondary schools that work across the system. You may recall that the NDP enjoins us to “recognise top-performing schools as national assets”. It further directs that “the support of these schools should be enlisted to assist [in uplifting] underperforming schools”.
The Schools that Work study, affirmed that there are schools that are doing exceptional work, and these schools include “no fee” schools. An example that has been identified, is a quintile 1 school in Limpopo, which serves the poorest of the poor in that province. This school continues to achieve within the top 1.5% of all public schools, and performs better than 87% of the best-resourced schools in the country. There are similar schools that were identified in other provinces, which are universally serviced by teachers who go to extraordinary measures to help their learners to achieve, despite their circumstances. These schools, principals, teachers, parents and learners are definitely our national assets, and their selfless efforts must be celebrated.
Learners receiving social grants
79.7% of the learners, who were recipients of some form of social grants, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, passed. 5 016 of them achieved Bachelor passes; 5 997 achieved Diploma passes; 2 863 achieved Higher Certificate passes; and 2 achieved NSC passes. These learners also achieved 500 distinctions, including distinctions in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, economics, Mathematics and Physical Science.
Clearly, the Government’s pro-poor policies have made an indelible contribution in these young people’s lives. It is indisputable, that without such assistance and support, these young people could have been lost to posterity. We must commend the Department of Social Department for the “social wage” and support they provided.
Performance of the Districts
The NDP recognises districts as a crucial interface of the basic education sector in identifying best practice, sharing information, and providing support to schools. The continued growth in the performance of districts is closely monitored by both the provincial and national education departments. In 2017, the Eastern Cape has rationalised the number of districts from 23 to 12; which has reduced the number of districts from 81 to 70 nationally.
In 2017, 66 of the 70 districts (94% of our districts) attained pass rates of 60% and above; and 31 of the 70 districts (44.3%) attained pass rates of 80% and above. Regrettably, 4 of the 70 districts (5.7%) achieved pass rates lower than 60%. For the first time, no district has performed below 50%.
The top 10 performing districts in the country, in the descending order, with the progressed learners included, are as follows –
- First, is Fezile Dabi in the Free State with 2%;
- Second, is Thabo Mafutsanyana in the Free State with 90%;
- Third, is Tshwane South in Gauteng with 8%;
- Fourth, is Ekurhuleni North in Gauteng with 1%;
- Fifth, is Tshwane North in Gauteng with 9%;
- Tied at sixth, are Gauteng West and Johannesburg West in Gauteng with 6%;
- Eighth, is Sedibeng East in Gauteng with 9%;
- Ninth, is Johannesburg East in Gauteng with 8%; and
- Tenth, is Overberg in the Western Cape with 7%.
The top performing districts in their respective provinces, in the ascending order, with progressed learners included, are as follows –
- Nelson Mandela Metro in the Eastern Cape with 6%;
- Vhembe in Limpopo with 6%;
- Ehlanzeni in Mpumalanga with 8%;
- Umgungundlovu in KwaZulu Natal with 5%;
- Ngaka M Molema in the North West with 5%;
- Namaqua in the Northern Cape with 83%;
- Overberg in the Western Cape with 7%;
- Tshwane South in Gauteng with 8%; and
- Fezile Dabi in the Free State with 2%.
Performance of the Provinces
The Council of Education Ministers had agreed that the reporting on the NSC examination results, should first, exclude the performance of progressed learners; and second, include their performance.
First, a glimpse is given, in an ascending order, on how provinces performed, with progressed learners excluded –
- Eastern Cape attained 8%, an increase of 2.5% from 2016;
- Limpopo attained 4%, a decline of 0.8% from 2016;
- KwaZulu-Natal attained 6%, an increase of 4.1% from 2016;
- Mpumalanga attained 6%, a decline of 4.7% from 2016;
- Northern Cape attained 6%, a decline of 4.6% from 2016;
- North West attained 1%, a decline of 4.1% from 2016;
- Western Cape attained 4%, a decline of 3.3% from 2016;
- Gauteng attained 86%, a decline of 1% from 2016; and
- Free State attained 8%, a decline of 3.4% from 2016.
We must applaud the four provinces that retained their 80% plus pass status.
Now, let me announce the results achieved by the provinces with progressed learners included. Two provinces attained lower than 70%, and these are –
- Eastern Cape achieved 65%, improved by 7% from 2016 – the second largest improvement in the country; and
- Limpopo achieved 6%, up by 3.1% from 2016.
Four provinces achieved above 70%, and these are –
- KwaZulu-Natal achieved 8%, improving by 6.4% from 2016 – the largest improvement in the country;
- Mpumalanga achieved 8%, a decline of 2.3% from 2016;
- Northern Cape achieved 6%, a decline of 3.1% from 2016;
- North West achieved 4%, a decline of 3.1% from 2016;
The following provinces achieved above 80% –
- Western Cape achieved 7%, a decline of 3.2% from 2016;
- Gauteng achieved 1%, the same pass rate as in 2016.
- The top-performing province in 2017 is the Free State, which achieved 86%, down by 2% from 2016. Congratulations to MEC Tate Makgoe and your team!!!
We can see that the 2017 NSC examination results with progressed learners, dispel the myth that progressed learners adversely affect the overall results. Certainly, this was not the case, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, and Limpopo. In fact, in KwaZulu Natal, the results with progressed learners included, are better than those without the progressed learners.
We have noted the upward trend in the performance of our three most rural provinces, namely, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. 51.5% of the candidates, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations, come from these three rural provinces. Remarkably, 68.7% of the candidates, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations passed. More remarkably, these three provinces combined, produced 44.8% Bachelor passes, which translates to almost 45 Bachelor passes per 100 produced anywhere else in the country.
Three years ago, we had declared that we would continue to pay particular attention to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo, so that we can improve the overall performance of our learners through the Grades. The improvement in these rural provinces, is a clear indication that our pointed interventions, based on our National Strategy for Learner Attainment, have begun to bear good fruit. What we dare not do, is to drop the ball. We must continue with our pointed interventions, so that the levels of teaching and learning outcomes in these three rural provinces, continue to rise.
Overall national performance
This brings us to the 2016 NSC examination overall results. For the past seven years, we have noted that the NSC pass rate has consistently been above the 70% threshold. The Class of 2017 must be commended for maintaining this trend. The 2017 NSC overall pass rate, with the progressed learners excluded, stands at 76.5%, a 0.3% improvement from the 76.2% achieved in 2016.
However, with the progressed learners included, the overall pass rate, stands at 75.1%, a 2.6% improvement from the 72.5% achieved in 2016. This, represents a total of 401 435 candidates, who had passed the 2017 NSC examinations. Well done to the Class of 2017!!!
Further analysis of the results show that, of the number of candidates, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations –
- 153 610 achieved Bachelor passes (equivalent to 7%);
- 161 333 passed with a Diploma (equivalent to 2%);
- 86 265 passed with Higher Certificates (equivalent to 1%) and
- 99 passed with a National Senior Certificate.
It is important to note that a total of 314 943 candidates (equivalent to 78.5%), who achieved Bachelor and Diploma passes, are eligible to register for studies at higher education institutions. The 86 364 candidates (equivalent to 21.5%), who obtained certificate passes, may register at TVET Colleges and other skills training institutions. We encourage the 133 049 candidates, who did not make it, to register for the Second Chance programme.
In 2017, a total of 161 081 distinctions were achieved, an improvement of 1.8% from 2016. The main contributors are KZN with 28%; Gauteng with 22.4%; Western Cape with 15.5%; Limpopo with 9.5%; and Eastern Cape with 9%. It is remarkable to note that the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo produced a combined 46.5% of the total distinctions achieved nationally.
In the 12 key subjects (including Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, and Physical Science among others), the total number of distinctions stands at 62 154, a decline of 4.6% from 2016. The number of distinctions attained specifically in the gateway subjects is as follows:
- 5 040 distinctions were achieved in Accounting;
- 6 726 distinctions were achieved in Mathematics; and
- 7 861 distinctions were achieved in Physical Science.
Aggregation according to gender
There are 65 007 more girls than boys, who enrolled for the 2017 NSC examinations; and there are 57 918 more girls than boys, who wrote the 2017 NSC examinations. Overall, there are 217 387 girls, compared 184 048 boys, who passed the 2017 NSC examinations. When translated into percentages, 73.4% girls and 77.2% boys passed the 2017 NSC examinations.
There are 28.5% female candidates, who obtained Bachelor passes, compared to 29% of their male candidates; 28.4% female candidates obtained Diploma passes, compared to 32.4% of their male counterparts; 16.4% female candidates obtained Higher Certificate passes, compared to 15.8% of their male counterparts. 62.6% of the distinctions were attained by female candidates, including distinctions in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, and Physical Science.
Clearly, our gender-based intervention programmes have uplifted the performance levels of the girl child. While this is plausible, we must make a concerted effort to provide similar interventions for the boy child. Even the regional and international assessment studies, implore us to do so.
Fellow South Africans, we will be the first to concede that despite the notable stability of and improvements in our system, we are yet to cross our own Rubicon. We must agree that much has been achieved, but much more needs to be done in the areas of efficiency and quality. We call upon all South Africans to work together with us to move the public schooling to greater heights.
Once again, I take off my hat to the Class of 2017, and I wish them the best in their future. I believe that you will continue to shine wherever you are. Speaking of success, Madiba said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear; but the triumph over it. The brave man (sic) is not he, who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
In celebrating the Class of 2017, I must also thank the principals, teachers, and parents for the work they continue to do. What you do at the school level, is what matters the most. The nation had put the future of our learners in your hands, and you delivered. We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.
I thank you.