Referring to the matrics as the "born-frees” – because most were born in 1994 – Motshekga said their performance put the department well on course to achieving its target of a 75% national pass rate by next year.
The troubled Eastern Cape recorded an improved 61.6% – up from 58.1% in 2011 – but was still at the bottom of the list as the worst-performing province.
The equally embattled Limpopo, which, like the Eastern Cape is under national administration, was the second lowest with 66.9%, up from 63.9%.
Gauteng produced the highest pass rate at 83.8%, an improvement on the 81.1% in 2011.
"This growth is very encouraging bearing in mind that when we came into office we had put the targeted growth at 75% by 2014,” Motshekga said. "Now at 73.9%, our target is within reach. "From this year, we will work even harder, not only to sustain this growth but to push for an even higher pass rate, beyond 75%.”
The Western Cape, last year’s star performer, was the only province that saw a decline, dropping from 82.9% to 82.8%.
Motshekga partly attributed the improved national pass rate to a "relatively stable” 2012, save the disruptions in the Northern Cape where parents prevented pupils from going to school during a service delivery protest.
Despite these interruptions, however, the province recorded the biggest improvement of 5.9 percentage points to 74.6%.
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