PRETORIA – The basic education department (DBE) has dismissed suggestions that the department has “culled” the number of school pupils to get a higher pass rate in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.

“What makes this claim even more disappointing is that the department has in fact done the exact opposite by progressing learners who have failed the Further Education and Training (FET) phase more than once.

So in essence we have pushed an additional 65,673 learners through the system who sat for the November examinations, this at the risk of a drop in the percentage,” the department said in a statement on Saturday.

On Friday, Democratic Alliance spokesman Gavin Davis said close analysis of the 2016 matric results revealed a very high “drop-out rate”, leading to speculation that some pupils may have been “culled” to inflate the matric pass rate.

According to the department’s figures, 1,100,877 pupils enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014, but only 610,178 enrolled for Grade 12 in 2016. This meant that 44.6 percent of pupils either dropped out of the system altogether or remained stuck in Grade 10 and 11.

The “drop-out rate” was highest in the Northern Cape (54.4 percent), North West (52.7 percent, and the Free State (51.6 percent), Davis said.

In its statement on Saturday, the department said the progressed pupil policy contradicted Davis’s claims sharply.
“It’s a mischievous accusation aimed at diverting attention from the constructive analysis arising from the gains made by the education system in recent years.

We reject his assertion that learners were culled. The fact of the matter is that we have spent resources towards a comprehensive learner support programme implemented countrywide.

“The Grade 12 examinations are not primarily designed to measure whether there is progress in the system as a whole, or even in individual schools.

The main purpose of these examinations is to provide learners with an exit qualification. This is our main objective as the DBE, while we do like to register progress and are encouraged when we see the fruits of our hard work reflecting in the results the main objective is always to try and get learners to leave the system with a qualification,” department said.

“The department is well aware of the situation regarding learner drop-out rates and the reality is that we lose approximately 30 percent of learners between Gr 10 and 12.

The reasons vary from social-economic reasons, youth criminality, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, death, attending alternative education institutions, employment, as well as dropping out due to the frustration of continued grade repetition.

“As a result we have put a number of interventions in place to counter these; the most bold of yet is the progression policy which is the exact opposite of the DA’s ridiculous assertions,” it said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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