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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education,

Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, Delivered at the Release of
NSC Examination Results for 2016 held at Vodaworld,
04 January 2017

Good Evening Fellow South Africans!

Programme Director and Compatriots, in his Memoirs
entitled Birth of a Dream Weaver Ngg wa Thiong'o says:
My father, my mother,
If these were the days of our ancestors,
I would ask you for a cows and goats,
Now I ask you to send me to school.
My father, my mother,
Yesterdays heroes called for spears to defend the nation,
Todays heroes demand pen and slate to save the nation,
Thats why I ask you to send me to school.
These seminal words spoken decades ago, when most
parts of the continent of Africa were engaged in a revolution
to free ourselves from the yoke of Western Imperialism, are
as profound today as there were in 1961. To the finest son
of Africa, Professor Ngg wa Thiong'o, and millions of other
Africans both at home and in the Diaspora, I am glad to

report that the African child is today at school immersed in

the learning venture to muster the triple Rs of foundational
education Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic.
Strategic direction in the basic education sector
The cry of the African child has reverberated throughout the
corners of the globe.

There is now a global education

agenda, the UNESCO Education Agenda 2030, which is

part of the seventeen UNESCO sustainable development
The UNESCO Sustainable Development Goal 4, the
Continental Education Strategy for Africa on the African
Agenda 2063, the National Development Plan Vision 2030,
and our Action Plan 2019: Towards Schooling 2030 provide
a clear direction in improving access, redress, equity,
efficiency and quality of learning outcomes through the
implementation of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework
and the National Strategy for Leaner Attainment.
The National Senior Certificate examination results are one
of the most important barometers to evaluate progress
made by Government in the aforementioned. Progress in

the sector has also been confirmed by the recent cycles of

regional and international assessment studies.
Building a solid and foundation for teaching and
We should always remember at all times that if we have to
further improve the outputs of the schooling system, we will
have to continue to improve the fundamental quality of
learning and teaching, well before Grade 12.
Research is showing that the major root causes of dropping
out of school towards the end of secondary school, are
weak learning foundations. Therefore, the most important
priority must be to improve the quality of learning and
teaching in the early Grades, so as to ensure that learners
are equipped with the skills needed to cope with the
curriculum requirements of the higher Grades.
Hence, though not extensively, as we report on the Grade
12 examination results, it is important to also briefly speak to
the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
(TIMSS 2015) and the Southern and East African
Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ
IV) results, which report on performance in lower Grades.

International assessment benchmark tests

The results of recent international studies, such as the
TIMSS 2015 and the SACMEQ IV, show that the
performance of South African learners is improving,
symptomatic of a system in an upward trajectory.
The TIMSS 2015 results confirmed noteworthy growth
patterns; which when compared with other countries since
2003 at the Grade 9 level, South Africa has shown the
largest improvement of 87 points in Mathematics, and 90
points in Science.
The preliminary SACMEQ IV study results further affirmed
the upward trends; and showed that for the first time, South
African learners at the Grade 6 level, achieved Mathematics
scores above the significant centre point of 500 points.
More importantly, the largest gains were evident within the
historically disadvantaged sections of the school system.
2016 National Senior Certificate Examination Results
As we analyse the 2016 NSC examination results, we must
bear in mind that 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. We however, are able to
also glean on the progress we are making as a country to
provide an inclusive, quality and efficient basic education for
our children; and these results do exactly that.
We are therefore 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.


specifically, we have deliberately prioritised early grade

The effects of these interventions are beginning to result in
improved learning outcomes. The skills of learners have
improved, according to rigorous and widely respected
international testing programmes. Ambitious policy shifts by
government, combined with the efforts and commitment of
the thousands of people who work in our schools, are
paying off. Available scientific comparisons of the quality of



improvement in recent years.




Profile: Class of 2016

The Class of 2016 is the ninth cohort of learners to sit for
the National Senior Certificate (NSC) and third cohort to
write CAPS-aligned NSC Examinations. The Class of 2016
has recorded the 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







comprising 674 652 full-time candidates and 153 368 parttime candidates.

Of these candidates, 610 178 full-time

candidates and 107 793 part-time candidates, wrote the

2016 NSC examinations.
Fair, Valid and Credible Examinations
Fellow South Africans, I am also glad to announce that the
Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and
Further Education and Training, has declared the 2016 NSC
examinations as fair, valid and credible".
The release of the 2016 NSC examination results was
approved, however the results of the learners who have
been implicated in the leaked Mathematics Question Paper
2, will remain blocked pending the finalisation of the

investigations. Umalusi has further commended the DBE

for the Evidence-Based Report, its support and interventions
to learners, and the running of a successful and credible
examination process.
Performance of the progressed learners
One of the key areas in the year 2015, was to encourage
provinces to progress or condone learners who have
repeated Grade 11 more than once, and who are over-aged;
and give them extra support to sit for Grade 12 NSC







examinations meaning that they write part of the

examinations in November 2016, and the rest in June 2017.
Consequently, in 2016 we saw the 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, in particular this
For the Class of 2016, we had 108 742 registered
progressed learners, up from 65 671 progressed learners in
2015. This is an increase of 43 071, equivalent to 65.5%,
from the number of progressed learners in 2015; and 16.1%

of the total number of full-time candidates registered for the

2016 NSC examinations.
67 510 progressed learners wrote the requisite seven
subjects during the 2016 NSC examinations. The rest of the






remaining subjects from those written during the 2016 NSC

examinations, will be written in June 2017.
Of the progressed learners who wrote the 2016 NSC
examinations, 29 384 passed; which represents 27% of all
progressed learners, and 6.6% of all learners who passed
the 2016 NSC examinations.
3 335 progressed learners obtained Bachelor passes; 12
636 obtained Diploma passes; and 13 385 obtained Higher
Certificate passes. There are a total of 2 361 distinctions
(compared to 1 081 in 2015) attained by progressed
learners, including distinctions in Accounting, Mathematics







achievements, is that the 29 384 progressed learners who

passed the 2016 NSC examinations the would-be-highschool dropouts if they were not progressed, now have the
opportunity to either go to 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.


incremental introduction of the three-stream model that







occupational in the basic education sector is intended to

address this NDP directive.
We have learned a lot from this exercise, and working with
provinces, we will continue to strengthen and provide
support for progressed learners. We thank all provinces for
the extra support they had given to these learners, because
some of them could have fallen through the cracks of the
system, due to continuous repetition and ultimate drop-out
from the system.
Learners with Special Education Needs
We strongly believe that an Inclusive Education system
make an immense contribution towards an inclusive
economy to serve an inclusive society. We have for the past
few years included learners with special education needs in
tracking learner performance in the NSC.


1 944 learners with special needs wrote 2016 NSC

examinations an increase of 15% from those who wrote in
2015. The number of Bachelor and Diploma passes has
increased showing an improvement in the quality of the
results. A number of distinctions were also obtained in this






congratulated for their contribution of the 76.7% Bachelor

passes achieved; and the 66% of the Diploma passes
achieved by the learners with special education needs.
The benefits of the pro-poor policies of Government
on the Grade 12 examination results, with progressed
learners included
In the 2016 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 (no
fee schools) combined, stand at 272 615; the Bachelor
passes achieved by learners in no fee schools stand at 78
878; the Diploma passes stand at 114 828; and Higher
Certificate passes stand at 78 909.
More impressively, between the 60 and 79.9% pass rate,
was registered in 1 526 quintile 1 to 3 schools. Similarly,
between the 80 and 100% pass rate, was registered in 1


452 quintile 1 to 3 schools. Disappointingly though, 1 991

quintile 1 to 5 schools registered a pass rate of less than
60%. We must however, congratulate the 354 quintile 1 to 5
schools which registered a 100% pass mark.
It is important to explain the significance of the poverty
ranking of schools. Quintile 1 to 3 schools, also known as
no fee schools, are schools that were previously faced a









environments in which these schools find themselves.

Teachers and principals have to invest a lot of energy to do
more with less; and for that, we want to express our most
sincere gratitude and appreciation to our teachers and
Performance of the Districts
The National Development Plan recognises districts as a
crucial interface of the basic education sector in identifying
best practice, sharing information, and providing support to

The continued growth in the performance of

districts, is closely monitored and evaluated by both the

provincial and national education departments.


In 2016, 67 of the 81 districts attained a pass rate of 60%

and above about 14% improvement from 2015; 31 districts
achieved a pass rate of 80% and above 7% improvement
from 2015. Nationally, the top six performing districts, with
the progressed learners included, are the following
First is Overberg from the Western Cape with 92.7%;
Second is Xhariep in the Free State with 92%;
Third is Fezile Dabi from the Free State with 91.8%;
Fourth is Gauteng West with 91.2%;
Fifth is Namaqua in the Northern Cape with 91%;
Sixth is Thabo Mofutsanyana in the Free State with 90%;
Four districts attained pass percentages of between 87 and

The top performing districts in their respective

provinces, in an ascending order, with progressed

learners included, are as follows
Vhembe in Limpopo with 70.3%.
Amajuba in KwaZulu-Natal with 77.2%;
Nkangala and Ehlanzeni in Mpumalanga are tied at
Cradock in the Eastern Cape with 81.2%;


Ngaka M Molema in North west with 85.7%

Namaqua in the Northern Cape with 91%;
Gauteng West in Gauteng with 91.2%;
Xhariep in the Free State with 92%; and
Overberg from the Western Cape with 92.7%.
Regrettably, there were five districts which performed below
50%, and all of these districts are in the Eastern Cape; and
there are eight districts that performed between 50 and
59.9% four of these, are in the Eastern Cape; three are in
KwaZulu-Natal; and one is in Limpopo.

We wish to

acknowledge Graaf Reinet in the Eastern Cape for

registering the highest number of candidates in Physical
Performance of the Provinces
The Council of Education Ministers had agreed that the
reporting of the NSC examination results should give an
indication of pass marks with progressed learners excluded
as well included.
First, a glimpse is given in an ascending order on how
provinces performed, with progressed learners excluded:


Eastern Cape attained 63.3%, an increase of 1.1% from

62.2% in 2015;
Limpopo attained 68.2%, a decline of 3.4% from 71.7%
in 2015;
KwaZulu-Natal attained 69.5%, an increase of 7.9% from
61.6% in 2015;
Mpumalanga attained 81.3%, a decline of 0.8% from
82.1% in 2015;
Northern Cape attained 82.2%, a decline of 1.8% from
84% in 2015;
North West attained 86.2%, an increase of 9% from
77.2% in 2015;
Gauteng attained 87% an increase of 1.1% from 85.9%
in 2015;
Western Cape attained 87.7%, a decline of 0.3% from
88% in 2015; and
Free State attained 93.2%, an increase of 5.5% from
87.7% in 2015.

Free State is the only province that

broke the 90% threshold.

Congratulations MEC Tate Makgoe, this is a great feat, the
first since the introduction of the National Senior Certificate
examinations nine years ago. Breaking this threshold is no


child's play in the public sector with all the challenges of

public education having to deal with learners from poor to
wealthy households, children from rural and urban settings,
learners facing a variety of learning barriers, big learner
numbers, and just dealing with South Africa in its different






achieved at below 70%; five achieved above 80%; and one

province achieved above 90%.

The six provinces with

above 80% must be commended.

Now let me announce the results achieved by the provinces
with progressed learners included.

The following

provinces achieved below 70%

Eastern Cape achieved 59.3%, improving from 56.8% in
2015, an improvement of 2.5%;
Limpopo achieved 62.5%, down from 65.9% in 2015, a
decline of 3.4%;
KwaZulu-Natal achieved 66.4%, improving from 60.7%
in 2015, an improvement of 5.7%. KZN produced the
second largest number of Bachelor passes, and
registered the highest number of candidates for the 2016


NSC examinations. We also wish to congratulate KZN

for registering the highest participation rates of African
learners in Mathematics;
Two provinces, namely Mpumalanga and Northern Cape,
achieved above 70%
Mpumalanga achieved 77.1%, declining by 1.6% from
78.6% in 2015;
Northern Cape achieved 78.7%, improving from 69.9%
in 2015, an improvement of 9.3%;
The following provinces achieved above 80%
North West achieved 82.5%, improving from 81.5% in
2015, an improvement of 1%;
Gauteng achieved 85.1%, improving from 84.2% in
2015, an improvement of 0.9%. Gauteng recorded the
highest Bachelor passes, and had the second highest








Western Cape achieved 85.9%, improving from 84.7% in
2015, an improvement of 1.2%;


Again, even with progressed learners included, the top

performing province for 2016 is Free State, which achieved
88.2%, up from 81.6% in 2015 an improvement of 6.6%.
It must be noted that the three most rural provinces, i.e.,
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, 82 902, 147
648, and 101 807 candidates, respectively wrote the 2016
NSC examinations. This gives a combined total of 332 357
candidates contribution towards the overall national cohort
of 610 178, who wrote the 2016 NSC examinations. The
total number of registered candidates in the three rural
provinces represents 54.5% of total 2016 NSC national
cohort who wrote the examinations.
Clearly, we must continue to pay particular attention to the
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo if we want to
improve the overall NSC national picture. If we dont do
this, our basic education outputs and outcomes may not
improve to the extent necessary.
Overall national performance
This brings us to the 2016 NSC examination overall results.
For the past six years, we have noted that the NSC pass
rate has consistently been above the 70% threshold. The


Class of 2016 must be commended for maintaining this

trend. They are the largest cohort in the history of basic
education to sit for any NSC examination in the country.
With the Class of 2016 being the largest cohort the country
has ever registered, a possibility existed that learner
performance could drop. But this did not happen thanks
to the dedication and commitment of teachers, governing
bodies, parents, the South African society at large, the
provincial education departments, and the Class of 2016
itself for rising to the challenge.
Programme Director and Compatriots, the 2016 NSC overall
pass rate, with the progressed learners excluded, stands
at 76.2%.

However, with the progressed learners

included, the 2016 NSC overall pass rate stands at 72.5%,

which represents 442 672 candidates who have passed, the
second largest in history. Well done to the Class of 2016!!!
The number of learners qualifying for admission to Bachelor
studies is 162 374; the number passes with a Diploma is
179 619; the number of passes with Higher Certificates is
100 486; and the number of passes with NSC is 68.


In 2016, a total of 158 395 distinctions were achieved. In

the 12 key subjects (including Mathematics, Physical
Science, Accounting, Economics, Business Studies, among
others), the total number of distinctions increased to 65 136
in 2016, from 63 348 in 2015. The number of distinctions
attained specifically in the gateway subjects was as follows:
6 576 distinctions in Accounting were achieved,
compared to 5 820 in 2015;
8 076 distinctions were achieved in Mathematics,
compared to 7 791 in 2015; and
7 046 distinctions were achieved in Physical Science,
compared to 5 903 in 2015.
Aggregation according to gender
There were 56 926 more girls than boys who wrote the 2016
NSC examinations.

Overall, there are 237 130 girls,

compared 205 542 boys, who passed the 2016 NSC

examinations. However, when translated into percentages,
74.3% boys compared to 71.1% girls passed the 2016 NSC
examinations. The number of girls, who achieved Bachelor
passes and distinctions, is more than that of the boys.


Critical observations from research

Fellow South Africans, I wish to make reference to three
important research reports. The first is about the retention
of learners through the schooling system; the second relates
to the improved performance in Mathematics and Physical
Science, particularly among black-African learners; and the
third is on the shifting trends regarding meaningful
contributions, schools are making towards Bachelor passes.
The first research report reveals that since the advent of
democracy in 1994, more learners remain in school up to
Grade 12. In this regard, South Africa does well, relative to
other middle-income countries, such as Tunisia, Egypt,
Costa Rica and Uruguay. Virtually all children remain in
school up to the year in which they turn 15 years of age, in
line with the compulsory schooling policy embodied in the
South African Schools Act, 1994.
Further, by 2015, research has found that around 58% of
young people were successfully completing thirteen years
(including Grade R) of education, in the sense that they
were completing the National Senior Certificate or an
equivalent qualification from a college. This figure becomes
56%, if one only considers the National Senior Certificate.


More interestingly, in 1995, 39% of young people, aged 25

years, had reported having completed Grade 12.
The second research report states that, at the higher levels
of performance, the patterns have been encouraging, and
lend support to the finding of a system that is on the rise.
For instance, in Mathematics, 33 521 learners achieved a
mark of 60% or more in the 2016 examinations, following
figures of 30 314 and 31 812 for 2014 and 2015,
respectively. Improvements at this level of performance are
important, as these mean more learners get to qualify for
mathematically-oriented programmes at university, and are
hence equipped to fill critical skills gaps in the economy.
By far, most of the improvement has been amongst blackAfrican learners.

For instance, the increase of 1 709

between 2015 and 2016 with respect to all learners

achieving a mark of 60% or more in Mathematics, becomes
an increase of 1 308, if one considers just black-African
learners only. These trends, thus point to a narrowing of the
serious race-based inequalities in schools.
It is moreover important to note that historically blackAfrican schools, currently account for around two-thirds of


black-African learners, who achieve a mark of 60% or more

in Mathematics.

Township and rural schools are making

important contributions, and these are in fact, the schools

which have shown the largest improvements in recently.
In Physical Science, the 2016 figures point to even larger
improvements. The number of learners (of any population
group) achieving 60% or more in Physical Science, reached
28 510 in 2016, the highest figure seen since the National
Senior Certificate was introduced in 2008.
The third research report shows the extent to which in the
past, Bachelor passes, which tended to be concentrated in
better performing schools, were sometimes used as a
measure of the inequalities in the schooling system and
society in general.

We however, in recent years, have

observed a remarkable shift towards greater equity, though

the inequalities remain unacceptably high.
In 2005 for instance, as many as 60% of Bachelor passes
(or endorsements, as these were called at that time), came
from the best performing 20% of the schooling system. By
2015, the best performing 20% of the schooling system, was
producing just 49% of the Bachelor passes. In other words,


the remaining 80% of the schooling system, accounted for a

larger proportion of all learners deemed ready to enter

Also, university readiness had become more

equitably spread by 2015.

Fellow South Africans, we will be the first to concede that
despite the notable improvements in the 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 area
of efficiency and quality. We call upon all South Africans to
work together with us to move the public schooling to
greater heights.
On behalf of the Class of 2016, we wish to extend a special
gratitude to all our teachers, parents, the NGO sector,
education researchers Corporate South Africa, and the rest
of the population for their continued support in our
endeavours to bring about quality basic education in our

After all, the Governing Party has declared

education as a societal matter. Therefore, all hands must be

on deck.
I thank you.