Research and Policy Brief: 'Model C' is the model to emulate - 1st February 2011.

The odds of a pupil, regardless of race, passing matric increase significantly when they attend a former 'Model C' school, compared to those who attend other types of schools.

Former ‘Model C’ schools are those schools that were reserved for white pupils under apartheid. The term is not officially used by the Department of Basic Education, but is widely used to refer to former whites-only schools.

In 2009 (the latest year for which the Institute has figures) the national matric pass rate in former ‘Model C’ schools was 94%, compared to an overall pass rate of 60%. The pass rate for each race group was also higher than the overall pass rate. This was true of Africans in particular.

In 2009 the matric pass rate for Africans in former ‘Model C’ schools was 88%. The overall pass rate for African pupils in that year was 55%.

For coloured pupils in ‘Model C’ schools the pass rate was 88%, compared to an overall pass rate of 76%.

For Indian and Asian pupils attending former ‘Model C’ schools the pass rate was 98%, compared to an overall pass rate of 92%.

The pass rate for white pupils in former ‘Model C’ schools was 99%. This was also the pass rate for white pupils overall. This is not surprising. Of the 42 000 white pupils who wrote matric in 2009, some 88% did so in ‘Model C’ schools.

The pass rates in former House of Representative(HoR) schools, which had been reserved for coloured pupils during apartheid, and former House of Delegate (HoD) schools, which had been reserved for Indian pupils before 1994, were also higher than the overall pass rate, in some cases significantly so.

The pass rate for Africans in HoR schools was 64%, for coloured pupils 70%, for Indians and Asians 83%, and for whites 99%.

The pass rate for Africans in HoD schools was 77%, for coloured pupils 81%, for Indians and Asians 91%, and for whites 100%. However, only 55 whites wrote matric in 2009 at former HoD schools.

The figures for pupils in ‘other’ schools were also poor. These would be schools that were run by the former homeland administrations, the Department of Education and Training (which administered non-homeland African education during apartheid), private schools that opt to write the government school-leaving examination, or schools that have been founded since the end of apartheid. The pass rate for Africans attending these ‘other’ schools was 52%, for coloured pupils 72%, for Indian and Asian pupils 87%, and for white pupils 96%. However, the vast majority of pupils who passed matric attended one of these schools.

Of the 339 144 pupils who passed matric in 2009, some 231 382 or 68% had written matric in one of these ‘other’ schools. It is therefore likely that there are vastly differing standards in these schools. Some will have 100% pass rates, while others will have pass rates of zero percent.

These figures are not surprising. Due to the legacy of the past, former ‘Model C’ schools, and to a lesser extent, former HoR and HoD schools, still benefit from far superior facilities and resources, human and financial, than schools that were reserved for African pupils during apartheid.

Along with superior facilities most former ‘Model C’ schools also probably perform well due to greater parental involvement, through pro-active governing bodies and parent teacher associations. In addition, they are able to charge parents of pupils higher fees, as they normally serve affluent areas. Higher fees allow schools to employ extra teachers who are appointed by the governing body, rather than the Department of Basic Education, resulting in smaller classes. The power of teachers’ unions, especially the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, also is weaker in ‘Model C’ schools. This leads to less disruptions, especially during strikes. During the public service strike last year, which included teachers, former ‘Model C’ schools generally managed to function without interruption, while many other schools had lessons disrupted, or simply closed over the duration of the labour action.

The above figures clearly show that if pupils, regardless of race, attend schools which have good facilities, and are well-run, good results will be achieved. The Department of Basic Education needs to examine what is being done right in good ‘Model C’ and other well-functioning schools and emulate this in schools which are performing poorly.

Results in former ‘Model C’ schools are excellent, but the pupils attending these schools account  for a small number of total pupils. Only 21% of pupils who passed matric in 2009 came from former ‘Model C’ schools, while 68% of those passing came from ‘other’ schools. The proportion of pupils writing matric in these ‘other schools’ is even higher. In 2009, of the 562 750 pupils that wrote matric, some  437 730, or 78% had written in these other schools. By contrast, only 74 429, or 13%, had written matric in former ‘Model C’ schools.

Former ‘Model C’ schools need to be supported. They are oases of excellence in the desert of mediocrity that is our public education system, and provide pupils with quality educations. However, centres of excellence also exist among schools which are not former ‘Model C’ and these need to be identified and supported. The factors that make these schools, which do not have the financial and human resources of many formerly white schools, schools of quality need to be identified and emulated. At the same time resources must not be diverted from former ‘Model C’ schools.

The weak cannot be strengthened by weakening the strong. However, the majority of South African pupils do not have the privilege of attending former ‘Model C’ schools. They will attend poorly-resourced schools which struggle to give children good educations. The majority of South African university students and workers will come from these schools, which will make the future success of these institutions all the more important. If the South African schooling system continues, for the most part, to fail to produce people who are able to thrive in tertiary education and the world of work, this country will not succeed. The success of our schooling system is imperative if South Africa wants to become a prosperous developed nation.


- Marius Roodt

This article was first published in The Star.