The department said after analysing household survey data in recent years, it found that at least 50% of youths finish grade 12. It also found that girls are more likely to finish grade 12 than boys.
“An alternative method of comparing the number of matric passes for a particular year to the 18-year-old population of the same year suggests that the figure could be as high as 56%…But whichever method one uses there has been a consistent improvement over time.”
The data also showed that higher grades have a high drop-out rate. Grade 11 had the highest dropout rate of 24.08%, followed by Grade 10 with a dropout rate of 14.84%
The department said it has faced some problems with its administrative data, which resulted in the data being unreliable or incomplete for parts of the system.
The independent analysis only sampled 7 provinces and certain grades between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016. The department said the findings of the analysis were not rare, especially considering that South Africa is a developing country.
“Successful completion of Grade 12 must continue to increase, but South Africa’s secondary school completion is not unusual among developing countries.”
“According to UNESCO, the upper secondary education completion rate for South Africa has been similar to that of middle-income countries – slightly above those of Tunisia, Egypt and Uruguay, but a bit below that of Indonesia.”
The department argued that grade repetition was a contributing factor towards the dropout rate. It also said it had difficulty tracking and measuring the impact that repeating a grade had on learners, especially learners who were already academically weaker candidates.
These learners were already seen as more likely to drop out of school than learners who have never repeated a grade.
“Repetition discourages children about their educational prospects and makes them relatively old for their grade, so that opting out of school might become socially or economically more attractive…But grade repetition could have a positive impact on educational outcomes of children if it is accompanied by effective remedial support,” it said.
The department said it does not yet have data linking the coronavirus to a possible dropout rate after 2020. Recently, the Gauteng province confirmed that more than 53 000 learners have not returned to school and are presumed to have dropped out.
Equal Education Co-head of Research, Roné McFarlane said the national figure of learners who have dropped out is very likely to be higher this year than in normal years. She said the dropout rate for Gauteng could be a negative sign for the rest of the country.
“If a province like Gauteng is forecasting around 50 000 learners dropping out, that paints a devastating picture for the rest of the country,”
The department said evidence has shown that although schools are open, children are at a lower risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
“Evidence shows low-risk of Covid-19 to children and that school re-openings are not causing an unacceptable increase in virus spread,” the department said.
Spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga said the department found it difficult to track access to learner material during the lockdown because learning material was being uploaded online.
“It’s difficult to have stats when the learning material was uploaded on the website for parents to access…It’s impossible to monitor what people do in their homes”. said Mhlanga
However, Equal Education raised concerns about a recent study done by major unions that found that 30% of schools surveyed said they lost contact with learners and parents.
According to McFarlane, learners who were already at risk of dropping out before the lockdown and school closure are now more likely to drop out during this period.
“There are some learners who they simply cannot trace anymore after this period. It’s impossible to follow up with them about coming back to school,”
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé