The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) has congratulated the class of 2020 for achieving a pass rate of 76.2%.
The 76.2% is, however, a 5.1 percentage point decrease from the previous year.
The organisation said achieving the 76.2% pass rate in the "face of the adversity" the Grade 12 pupils experienced in 2020, was beyond expectation.
"Dedication, resilience, and hard work once again proved to be the elements of success," it said.
It also commended the Department of Basic Education and the provincial education departments on the “successful” management and completion of the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination.
"Circumstances in 2020 did not favour the Departments," it said.
"To achieve the lowest rate of exam absenteeism in years in these circumstances is quite an achievement, especially considering that 74 165 candidates more wrote the 2020 NSC examination."
It added: "While it is fitting to congratulate the Education Departments, it is our teachers who deserve all the accolades. What matric teachers managed to achieve in the severely compromised teaching time of 2020 is something to behold."
"Not only were they forced to give up well earned vacation time, but during vacations many presented vacation classes, ensuring that the academic year was saved for the Grade 12 learners and that they were prepared as well as was humanly possible. The achieved pass rate is a tribute to the dedication of this group of teachers."
Lobby group AfriForum also congratulated the class of 2020, but said it placed the five percentage point drop in the matric pass rate at the door of the Department of Basic Education’s "poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic".
In a statement, manager for education rights at AfriForum Natasha Venter said: "Constant closure of schools for unnecessarily long periods, inadequate provision of safety equipment, the department’s waste of billions of rands, as well as the uncertainty about the rewrite of two leaked exam papers were some of the factors that contributed to the lower pass rate.
"… it is time for the department to take the future of South Africa’s children seriously, as there are many public schools that have still not received adequate safety equipment."
Merle Mansfield, programme director of the Zero Drop Out Campaign said the matric pass rate did not show what percentage of the cohort of pupils who started in Grade 1 actually made it to matric and passed.
“Instead of focusing all our attention on the matric results each year, we should also set targets for dropout reduction so that more learners who start their schooling journey are able to finish,” she said.
The campaign said the department needed to make dropout a key performance indicator.
"We also need to dedicate time and resources to improving learner-level data collection systems that can track academic performance, behaviour and chronic absenteeism, enabling us to flag young people most at risk of dropping out. Through effective referral systems, learners who show signs of disengagement can receive appropriate psychosocial support."