South Africa’s Grade 12 class of 2013 has posted the best performance yet in the important subjects of mathematics and science.

Announcing the matric results yesterday, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, says that of the 562 112 learners who wrote matric in 2013, 142 666 (54% of those who wrote) passed mathematics – 20 696 more than last year – while 124 206 (67,4% of those who wrote) passed physical science – 14 288 more than in 2012.

Motshekga points out that the results of international studies including Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) have corroborated observations that sections of the education system are responding positively to the many interventions the department has made.

“In respect of South Africa, the TIMSS’ results of 2011 showed that schools at the lower end of the performance spectrum, mainly schools in the less advantaged contexts, registered impressive improvements,” she says. “The 2011 TIMSS pointed to improvements in mathematics and science competencies of Grade 9 learners when compared to Grade 9 learners tested in 2002.

“South Africa’s improvement in mathematics of 67 TIMSS’ points between 2002 and 2011, or seven points per year on average, is among the steepest seen by any TIMSS participant. Only Ghana has seen a steeper improvement over this period. Our improvement is comparable to that experienced by Brazil in the last decade, probably the fastest and most consistent improvement in any international testing system in recent years.

“We have already exceeded 50% literacy and numeracy rate which we expected to meet by 2015.”

The overall national pass rate for the class of 2013 is 78,2%, compared to 73,9% last year, relating to 439 779 learners who passed out of the 562 112 who wrote the examinations.

The percentage of Grade 12 learners who qualified for Bachelor’s studies was 30,6%, compared to 20,1% in 2008, 19,9% in 2009, 23,5% in 2010, 24,3% in 2011 and 26,6% in 2012.

Gauteng and the Western Cape slipped from the top of the provincial rankings, with Free State and North West provinces moving into the top positions in terms of pass rates.