Free State education brilliance, far from a miracle

Opinion by Hon. Premier E.S. ‘Ace’ Magashule


In the 2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC) results, the Free State achieved an average pass rate of 93.2% excluding progressed learners. When progressed learners are included, the Free State attained a pass rate of 88.5%, which is 15.7 percentage points higher than the national average. We are indeed proud of this achievement. This achievement, coupled with other strides made by the Free State in education, is a product of rigorous work, rather than a miracle.


Guided by the 2009 and 2014 ANC election manifestos, the Free State Provincial Government has made education its number one priority. In order to put into practice this mandate, the provincial government has consistently increased the allocation of human and capital resources on the broad areas of education.



Through its coordinated, holistic and universal service delivery model, Operation Hlasela, the Free State Executive Council has, since 2009, overhauled the entire education system in the province. This overhaul of the education system has resulted in a continuous improvement of various education indicators. The matric pass rate, as the significant indicator that shows changes in the quality of education, has shown the highest increase.



From 2009 until 2016, the Free State matric pass rate has increased by almost 20 percentage points from 69.4% to the current 88.2%. In the same period, the Free State has increased the percentage of bachelor and diploma passes from 20.2% in 2009 to 35.8% in 2016, an increase of more than 15 percentage points over the seven year period. This demonstrates that the province has also realized an improvement in the quality of passes of the period under review.



The general improvement in the quality of education output is not accidental. It is a product of team work. It is an outcome of a conscious effort to use education towards the socio-economic transformation of our society. After receiving the 2015 matric results, the Executive Council resolved to convene a Free State Provincial Government Education Indaba, with the purpose of developing a plan towards improving education output in 2016 and beyond.



The Education Indaba provided a platform for all crucial stakeholders, including but not limited to, Members of the Executive Council, Members of the Provincial Legislature, Executive Mayors and other leaders of municipalities, Heads of Departments, Municipal Managers, members of School Governing Bodies, leaders of labour unions and other interested parties to deliberate frankly on the state of education in the province.


At the Indaba it was resolved that the retention of the number one position by the Free State in the 2016 matric results was not optional, but compulsory. A clear plan of action was adopted which served as a directive for all sectors of our community towards a better education output. The Indaba also agreed that, for matric results to be improved, the focus should not be on matric alone, but on all grades of schooling, including early childhood development.



Emerging from this Indaba, all participants became education volunteers, all playing their part in the improvement of education output. Below are some of the highlights of the 2016 matric results, which indicate a solid improvement in the quality of passes in particular, and the education system in general;



Quality of passes



  • Of all those who wrote matric examinations in the Free State in 2016, 35.8% obtained bachelor passes. This represents an increase of 6 percentage points from 29.8% bachelor passes in 2015;
  • Compared with other provinces, the Free State is on the top spot on crucial subjects of Accounting, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Maths Literacy and Geography. The province has also jumped into second position on its overall performance on Mathematics. This represents a massive jump from fifth position in 2010.



Pro-poor education system


  • Thanks to its grossly pro-poor education spending and focus, the Free State has ensured that an ever increasing proportion of distinctions achieved are from township schools;
  • Ngakana Lawrence Salemane of Le Reng Secondary School, a Quintile 2 school based in Ladybrand, Mantsopa, emerged as the best learner in Mathematics (100%) and Physical Sciences (100%);
  • The best Accounting learners in the province, Thabiso Mike Letlala, Ntebaleng Elsie Letaoana and Refiloe Ntsoaki Makhongoana, who all obtained 100% in the subject, are from Kgolathuto Secondary School, a Quintile 3 school in Phuthaditjhaba, Maluti-a-Phofung;
  • An increasing number of township schools are not only improving their pass rates each year, but are also realizing improved quality passes.



From 1955, when the (real) Congress of the People adopted the Freedom Charter, until today, the ANC’s position on education has not changed. Under President Jacob Zuma, the ANC government, through making education priority number one, continues to demonstrate its belief that education is a potent weapon to transform society and to create a conducive environment for a better life for all.



Ace Magashule is the Free State’s ANC Provincial Chairperson and Premier.