The racial breakdown of the 2007 matriculation results, released by the Department of Education last month, provide an important insight into the cause and extent of the crisis currently facing South Africa. The Department points out these statistics "cannot be regarded as completely reliable" based as they are on self-reporting. There are pupils who refuse to classify themselves by race and others who misclassify themselves by mistake. Last year, apparently, numerous Indian and black pupils erroneously classified themselves as ‘Asian.'
Last year 591,251 pupils wrote the government matric, 386,051 (65,3%) passed, and 89,838 (15,1%) passed with exemption - the minimum grade needed to progress on to university. In absolute terms more pupils passed, including with exemption, than ever before. However, there was a small decline in both the pass and exemption rates. See Table 3. In assessing the overall state of education one also needs to factor in the 7632 pupils at independent schools who wrote the separate IEB exams: 7283 passed (98,9%) and 5780 (78,5%) passed with exemption. See Table 4.
When one breaks these figures down by race, they reveal how little progress has actually been made since the end of apartheid in extending quality education to disadvantaged black and Coloured South Africans.
Last year 277,941 (60,6%) of black pupils passed matric. This is a doubling of the number who passed in 1991 and it represents a fifty percent increase in the pass rate. However, when one looks at the exemption rate this bright picture dims considerably. 49,950 black pupils passed the government matric with exemption last year, up from 30,389 in 1991. However, the exemption rate (10,9%) is no different now to what it was then. See tables 1 & 2. The Eastern Cape had the worst pass rate for black pupils (54%) as well as the worst exemption rate (6,9%). This lack of improvement has been achieved despite the equalisation of funding for school children; the integration of formerly white, Coloured, and Indian schools; and, the end of the politically inspired disruption of schooling by the ANC and its allies.
The statistics for the 34,741 Coloured pupils who wrote the government matric suggest that something catastrophic has happened to education in the Coloured community since the ANC came to power. The pass rate for these pupils has dropped from 82.8% in 1991 to 78% last year. More worryingly, only 15,4% (5367) of the these pupils passed with exemption. This represents a decline of almost a third in the exemption rate from 1991 when it stood at 21,9%.
These statistics suggest that, outside of Model C and independent schools, black and Coloured pupils are being deprived quality education; without which they cannot progress into the professions or compete with the children of the middle classes.
The pass rates for Indian and white pupils are largely unchanged from 1991, although the number of white pupils writing the government matric has now declined by over a third. The matric exemption rate for Indian pupils has increased from 49,5% in 1991 to 55.2% last year. For white pupils it has increased from 41,5% to 52%. This increase is largely a reflection of the softening of standards in the new matric relative to the old one.
While white and Indian pupils are still able to access reasonably good education through the school system, as soon as they leave matric they are faced with a wall of state-sponsored racial discrimination. In 2001 the racial composition of the population was estimated at 79% black, 8,9% Coloured, 9,6% white, and 2,5% Indian. The intention of the ANC is that every sphere of human activity in South Africa, at every level, should conform to these proportions. Racial discrimination is regarded as necessary and justified until demographic representivity has been achieved everywhere. As the party's 2007 Strategy & Tactics states, the need for such measures will only decline when "all centres of power and influence and other critical spheres of social endeavour become broadly representative of the country's demographics."
The effect of these measures, ever more strictly applied, is to prevent young Indian and particularly white South Africans from pursuing their ambitions in the land of their birth. What this means is that the country either loses these youth to other countries or refuses to take full advantage of the abilities of those that remain. South Africa thus deprives itself of many of its best and brightest minds. White and Indian pupils made up 9,5% of all those who wrote the government matric in 2007, 14,1% of those who passed it, 33,1% of those who passed with exemption, 42,2% of those who passed with merit, and 77,5% of those who passed with distinction.
In the early 1990s it was known that there would be a shortage of at least half a million skilled workers - ‘professional, technical, highly skilled, executive and managerial' - by the end of the decade. The ANC responded to this challenge by creating a truly perverse system. On the one hand it has fostered a dysfunctional school system which prevents most pupils from realising their real potential through education. On the other hand it refuses to utilise the skills and talents of many of those that do manage to gain a decent education because they are of the ‘wrong' colour. It is a system to the benefit of no-one but a hyper-privileged ruling elite; which has fixed the rules to ensure that they do not have to compete with individuals from either the racial minorities or the still disadvantaged majority.
|Table 1: 1991 matriculation results by race|
|Source: SAIRR, Race Relations Survey 1992/1993|
Table 2: 2007 government matriculation results by race
Government matric results 1980 - 2007
|Sources: Department of Education and South African Institute of Race Relations|
Table 4: IEB matric results 1994-2007
|Sources: SAIRR and IEB|