The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) says only 20% of pupils writing matric mathematics and physical science examinations achieve a pass mark of more than 50%.
The Institute says the proportion of pupils achieving a pass mark in mathematics of between 70% and 100% has fallen to 5.9% in 2011 from 8.3% in 2008 when the National Senior Certificate was introduced.
The Institute’s analysis, based on data provided by the Department of Basic Education also shows that more than half of pupils writing the mathematics paper over the period have actually achieved a mark below 30%. SAIRR researcher, Jonathan Snyman, says such failure rates are a cause for concern.
“The 30% threshold for a pass mark has been criticised for being too low and the fact that 50% of pupils who write mathematics and physical science cannot achieve even that low threshold. This indicates not only are there problems with the quality of teaching in these subjects but also that pupils have not grasped core concepts by the time they reach matric,” says Snyman.
"If the pass mark were to be improved to 50% in line with university standards, the real rate of failure for mathematics and physical science would be closer to 80%."