The Department of Basic Education has hit out at the DA's claim that weaker pupils were deliberately removed from the schooling system to keep the overall matric pass rate up.
"What makes this claim... disappointing is that the department has in fact done the exact opposite by progressing learners who have failed the Further Education and Training phase more than once," it said in a statement on Saturday.
"So, in essence we have pushed an additional 65 673 learners through the system who sat for the November examinations, this at the risk of a drop in the percentage.
"The progressed learner policy contradicts [DA MP Gavin Davis's] claims sharply."
High 'drop-out rate'
Davis said on Friday that "close analysis of the 2016 matric results reveals a very high 'drop-out rate', leading to speculation that some learners may have been 'culled' to inflate the matric pass rate".
He said the "true" matric pass rate could be only 40.2% if weaker pupils who may have been removed from the system are counted.
According to the department's figures, 1 100 877 pupils enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014, but only 610 178 wrote Grade 12 in 2016, he said in a statement.
Davis said this meant that 44.6% of pupils either dropped out of the system or remained stuck in Grade 10 and 11.
"But we need to remember that it is possible for a school, district or province to push up their pass rate simply by ensuring that fewer weaker learners write the matric exams," claimed Davis.
The department said the claim did not take into consideration "any number of possibilities".
"If learners in 2014 failed Grade 10 they would not be reflected in the 2016 cohort of Grade 12s; if they failed Grade 11 they would not be there; if they left the system and went to attend a TVET college they would not be there. The explanations are quite frankly endless."
The department said it is aware of the situation regarding learner drop-out rates and that it loses approximately 30% of learners between Grade 10 and 12.
"The reasons vary from social-economic reasons, youth criminality, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, death, attending alternative education institutions, employment, as well as dropping out due to the frustration of continued grade repetition."