No-fee schools maintain their bachelor pass rate, despite Covid-19

But learners at fee paying schools are much more likely to get a bachelor pass than the 70% of kids who attend the no-fee schools.

By Gemma Ritchie
Tuesday, February 1, 2022

University students sit outside the Great Hall at the University of the Witwatersrand. Photo: Gemma Ritchie/The Outlier

Covid-19 disrupted their final two years of schooling, yet the 2021 matric class managed to maintain the rate of bachelor passes – the minimum required to get into university – at 36%.

This means about one in every three matrics earned a bachelor pass.

Since 2016 the proportion of grade 12s who achieve a bachelor’s pass has been gradually increasing, from 26.6% to 36.4%, or from one in four learners to one in three – even with more grade 12 learners writing the National Senior Certificate exams in 2021 compared with previous years.

You can read our story on it here: Matrics in 2021 buck school drop-out trends.

Fee-paying vs no-fee schools

South Africa’s schools are divided into five quintiles, according to the socioeconomic level of the area in which they are located. Quintiles one to three are no-fee paying schools and quintile four and five schools are fee-paying schools, according to the Department Basic of Education.

The no-fee paying schools – quintiles one to three – did better than expected given they were most affected by the lockdown restrictions and they were the least likely to have the resources for online learning.

But grade 12 learners have a greater chance of getting a bachelor’s pass if they attend a fee-paying school, particularly a quintile 5 school.

Nearly six in every 10 learners at quintile 5 schools achieved a bachelor’s pass – about 15% of the grade 12s who wrote the NSC exams in 2021 attended a quintile 5 school. While at no-fee schools about three in every 10 learners achieved a bachelor pass – about 70% of the grade 12s attend one of those schools.

The Department of Education plans to increase the number of grade 12s passing with the requirements to enter a bachelor’s degree to 435,000 by 2030, according to a report written by education expert and professor at Stellenbosch University Martin Gustafsson.

In 2021, 256,031 learners achieved a bachelor’s pass.

“The emphasis has increasingly fallen on levels of performance in Grade 12 which will allow someone to pursue university studies, given government’s plans to expand university participation to meet the demands of the economy.”