Pretoria — Around 70.2% of the matriculants who sat for the 2011 National Senior Certificate examinations last year passed their exams.
"I am pleased to announce that the national pass rate for the Class of 2011 is 70.2%," Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday evening.
The pass rate represents an increase of 2.4% on 2010's pass rate of 67.8%.
In 2011, 496 090 candidates compared to 537 543 candidates in 2010 sat for their exams while the number of part time students who wrote their exams is 80 116.
Motshekga, who said she was proud to announce the results, said great strides were being made in the country's education system, adding that the progress was encouraging.
"South Africa congratulates the Class of 2011," she said of the results.
In 2011, 24.3% of Grade 12 learners qualified for Bachelors's studies - an increase from the year before when the figure was 23.5%.
A total of 104 033 matrics passed Mathematics and a further 96 441 passed Physical Science.
The department was pleased with the improved performance in Science while also remaining concerned about the number of passes in Maths, a decline from 2010's 47.4% to 46.3%.
Motshekga said the department would in 2012 focus on a strategy to improve the pass rate of Science and Maths. There was also a drop in the pass rate for Economics due to learners having difficulty with questions based on contemporary economic issues.
The department is also expected to focus on improving the participation of girl learners and helping schools to improve learner's subject choices while also working with several partners including the private sector.
Provincially, the Western Cape registered the highest pass rate in 2011 in the country at 82.9% followed by Gauteng at 81.1%. The Eastern Cape had the lowest pass rate at 58.1%.
The minister acknowledged that there was still a long way to go to eradicate inequity and that the results of the 2011 Annual National Assessments (ANA) were generally unfavourable.
She said the department knew where the problems were and would refine the ANA.
Learners in Grades 1 to 6 and 9 will write the 2012 ANA in September with the national results of ANA being announced in December.
"We congratulate the Class of 2011 for a job well done particularly those who performed exceptionally well. Some of you may be disappointed with your results. There are many options open to you to improve your results. Try again, don't give up now," she said.
The exams - the fourth since the implementation of the NSC - were incident free and proceeded without significant problems. "This goes to show the maturity of our examination system," she said.
The department's Director General Bobby Soobrayan said the results were evidence of intervention programmes introduced by the department.
"This is evidence of a maturing system, teachers have come to grips with the curriculum," he explained.
"The Class of 2011 was smaller than the Class of 2010 which shows that it's a system searching for equilibrium," he said. In 2011 there was a total of 329 question papers that were to be written.
Anxious learners can view their results in all major newspapers on Thursday.