2016 Systemic Test results show sustained improvement

It is with great pleasure that for the second time this year, I am in a position to acknowledge and commend schools in the Western Cape that have produced excellent results. This time it is in respect of our Grade 3, 6 and 9 language and Mathematics Systemic Tests in 2016.

As a province we believe in the value of providing diagnostic assessment of the provincial education system so that we can improve the management of education and learner and teacher performance. We are the only Province in the country to conduct testing of this nature – which is independently set, administered and marked so as to ensure that the results are credible and in line with international standards. The service providers included the Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town.

The Systemic Tests provide the most objective picture possible of learner performance in language and Mathematics, giving us the opportunity to assess whether we are improving the quality of education in the province. We have used the systemic tests over the years to design our improvement strategies and specific interventions and training programmes for schools and teachers at the CTLI. This has led directly to some of the improvements that we see in the system.  

The systemic tests are valuable as they inform our language and mathematics interventions which aim to improve the quality of teaching and learning in each school. The tests form a basis for the improvement of the management of education and learner and teacher performance.

The 2016 tests

Last year more than 215 813 learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9 wrote the Mathematics tests and 214 843 learners wrote the Language tests.

A total of 81 schools, comprising 20 744 learners (9.6%) of the 2016 cohort had not written the tests by the end of 2016. The Western Cape Education Department is in the process of charging teachers and principals who were responsible for unlawfully disrupting the systemic tests at a number of schools, in response to SADTU’s call to boycott them.

The tests were independently marked and the results will be released to schools today.

The 2016 results

I am very pleased that we were able to sustain the marked improvements in Mathematics and Language that were achieved in the 2015 Systemic tests. The results exclude the 81 schools still to write the 2016 tests.

The results include pass rates and average marks. The WCED defines a pass as 50% for the purposes of the test. This is not the pass rate used for promotion purposes as prescribed by the DBE, which is 50% for Home Language, 40% for First Additional Language and 40% for Mathematics in all three grades.

The results are as follows:


The pass rate for Grade 3 Mathematics has improved from 51.5% in 2012 to 57.7% in 2016. The average mark improved from 48.9% to 53.1% during this period.

From the tests we were able to pick up that Grade 3 learners are struggling to identify space and shape. We are therefore able to design interventions to assist the Grade 3 learners in these areas. Without the systemic tests we would not have been able to identify these weaknesses, which shows why they are so important.

The pass rate for Grade 6 Mathematics showed a sustained increase from 26.4% in 2012 to 40.1% in 2016. The average mark improved by 8% during this period from 39.5% to 47.5%.  Grade 6 learners are approaching tests with greater confidence and are tackling more questions, especially in Mathematics, which we first observed in 2015. Focused school management team interventions and support by our districts to school department heads have contributed to further performance improvements across all of the Districts in key learning areas, particularly Number Operations and Number Patterns.

The pass rate for Grade 9 Mathematics has improved by 9.7% from 13.9% in 2012 to 23.6% in 2016. The average mark improved from 29.3% in 2012 to 34.6% in 2016.

While we still have a lot of work to do in this area, I am pleased that there has been sustained progress. It indicates that our interventions are working.


The language results are generally steady, with increases over the past five years, despite the introduction of more difficult texts, to align them with international benchmarks.

Grade 3 language results increased from 38.9% in 2012 to 42.5% in 2016.

We were able to identify that Grade 3 learners’ writing skills have significantly declined. Again, without the systemic tests we would not have been able to identify these weaknesses and address these issues in the foundation phase.

Grade 6 language results have shown a 3.3% improvement from 36.9% in 2012 to 40.1% in 2016.

The Grade 9 language pass rate saw steady improvement from 48.2% in 2012 to 55.1% in 2016, an increase of 6.9%. The average mark improved from 50.7% to 52.6% during this period.


The Systemic results ultimately show that our interventions are working, and that the quality of teaching and learning in our schools is improving.

Factors that have played a role include significant investment in teacher training, ongoing testing, and support by our districts.

The tests reflect the hard work of these roleplayers. I would like to congratulate them all for these improvements.

The results however show that we still have a lot to do to improve results further.

The WCED has provided reports to every participating school, which they can now use to inform their school improvement plans for 2017.  Unfortunately, those schools that did not write are now at a significant disadvantage, as they will not know if there are specific areas on which they need to concentrate. 

The reports compare the school’s results to overall provincial results, and identify exactly what the school needs to focus on to improve results further.

Most schools will be pleasantly surprised at their improved results. We encourage schools to share these results with parents so that they can work together to develop the skills of their children.

There is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that we further improve on these results this year, and it will involve all roleplayers for this to be achieved, including the participation of parents in encouraging their children to read, write and calculate every day.

Well done to the schools that have performed well and/or improved on their results. I look forward to celebrating with them at our Annual LITNUM Awards taking place on 21 February 2017.



19th January 2017

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