Middleburg — Mpumalanga Education MEC Reginah Mhaule says performance in lower grades needs to improve in order to ensure better matric results.
Presenting the province's 2012 matric pass rate of 70% at a press conference in Middelburg on Thursday, she said the 2012 Annual National Assessments found, for example, that Grade 9 pupils scored an average of just 11.9% for Mathematics, which is below the national average of 13%.
"We have already exposed these results to teacher unions and collectively agreed that we must pull all strings and make education work at these levels," she said.
"We hold a strong view that our system dictates for a solid foundation at lower levels, otherwise our learners' performance in matric will always be found wanting," she added.
She said the 2012 matrics were the born-frees of the 1994 generation and had ensured that Mpumalanga reached its target of a 70% matric pass rate.
The province has now set a target of 80% for 2013.
Mpumalanga's matric results have improved steadily over the years. The province obtained a 47.9% matric pass in 2009, 56.8% in 2010 and 64.8% pass rate in 2011.
Of the 47 889 pupils matrics who wrote the 2012 exams, 33 504 passed.
Of these, 9 495 qualified for bachelor programmes, 14 277 for diplomas, 9 633 for higher certificates and 99 achieved the National Senior Certificate.
The leading education district was Ehlanzeni District, which produced a pass rate of 74%, followed by Nkangala at 73%, Gert Sibande at 69% and Bohlabela at 62.5%.
The Bohlabela education district has recorded the highest improvement, from a dismal 28.8% in 2009.
Only nine of the 67 circuits in the province achieved results of less than 60%.
Altogether, 18 of the 528 schools that wrote matric exams achieved a 100% pass rate.
The best performing school in the province was Hoerskool Nelspruit, where 169 of the 203 matrics, or 83.3%, qualified for a bachelor's programme. Thirty-two qualified for a diploma programme.
The most improved school in quintile one, which represent the poorest schools in the province, was Freddy Sithole Secondary School, which achieved a 100% pass rate. The school had scored a dismal 23.7% matric pass in 2010.
Two other quintile one schools - Highveld Secondary and Ximoyi Khosa - scored 98.7% and 98.1% respectively.
Nine schools achieved a pass of less than 30%, compared to 31 schools last year.
Pupils who failed for the first time must be readmitted to schools, while those who qualify to write supplementary exams must submit their applications by January 21. The supplementary exams will start on February 11.
MEC Mhaule urged schools to develop programmes to support those who will write supplementary exams.