Record number of 16-year-olds sat for SEC exams in 2019

Just under half of those who sat for the exams obtained the necessary qualifications to enroll in a sixth form programme

More students registered to sit for their SEC exams in 2019, but this was also accompanied by an increase in absenteeism
More students registered to sit for their SEC exams in 2019, but this was also accompanied by an increase in absenteeism

A record 94.1% of those born in 2003 applied to sit for their SEC examinations in 2019, MATSEC examinations board said on Monday.

In a statement MATSEC said that that 5,478 candidates had registered for the SEC examination, of whom 3,672 were born in 2003, meaning that the proportion of 16-year-olds sitting for the exams has reached an all-time high of 94.1%.  

MATSEC said that 1,742 candidates who were born in 2003 gained the entry requirement for Sixth Form, equivalent to 44.6% of the 16-year-old population, representing a 1.1% increase over 2018.

Furthermore, the examination board said there had been a substantial difference between genders, with girls more likely to sit for the exams than boys, In fact, 98.6% of girls sat for this year’s exams, compared to 89.7% of boys.

Female candidates, the board said, were are also more likely to obtain the entry requirements into sixth form. 47.9% of girls obtained the necessary grades, compared to 41.4% of males.

A greater proportion of girls opted for the three science subjects (16.7%) when compared to boys (11.5%). They were also more likely to sit for exams in foreign languages, the board said.

Male candidates, on the other hand, were more likely to register for vocational subjects, although this gender difference was much smaller in 2019 than in previous years, with the difference between the sexes having fallen from 70% in 2018 to 20% in 2019.

The 2019 main session was the first session where examination registration fees were completely subsided by the Maltese government. MATSEC said registrations increased in almost all SEX subjects, with a total of 333 candidates more candidates than last year.  

However, the increased rate of participation also meant an increase in the number of absent candidates at SEC level. Mathematics was the subject with the smallest increase in absent candidates, with the proportion increasing from 5.3% to 8.6%. In other subjects, such as English language, Maltese, Physics and English literature, the number of absent candidates more than doubled.

MATSEC said the “sharp increase in absent candidates and the larger ratio of paper IIB candidates in almost all subjects made it difficult to compare the results of 2019 with previous years”.

It said that this was especially so given that candidates who are not absent for all components of a subject are awarded a grade, rather than being marked as absent.

Students sitting for vocational subjects at SEC level increased from 543 in 2018 to 895 in 2019, of whom 76.3% were awarded Grades between 1 and 5 (1 is the highest possible grade).

Students fare badly in A Levels

While the number of students sitting for their SEC exam witnessed an increase, both the number of 18-year-olds sitting for their matriculation exams, as well as those sitting for enough subjects to gain entry into university experienced a decline.

3,857 candidates registered for matriculation exams in 2019, of whom 1,788 were born in 2001. 765 registered for at least two subjects at advanced level and four subjects at intermediate level.

MATSEC said that 1,207 candidates were awarded a matriculation certification in 2019, with 965 being 18 years of age.

More students were awarded the certificate in 2019 when compared to 2018, however MATSEC said that the reason for this was the fact that there was “a larger number of 19-year-olds” who had sat for the exams.

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