Pretoria - South Africa's 2009 National Senior Certificate pass rate is 60.6 percent, representing a decline of slightly less than 2 percent.
The 2008 results were 62.5 percent.
Speaking at the Union Buildings, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the results were disappointing.
"This achievement is depressing. We expected upward movement, although we are moving from a solid foundation. As a country we cannot allow our learners to achieve below average results."
Motshekga was able to announce the results of all nine provinces, despite Umalusi announcing on Monday that the results for Mpumalanga would be delayed after five examination papers were leaked in that province.
Umalusi had informed the minister last night that the results in that province were credible and therefore the department was able to announce them.
Motshekga said, however, that there was a need to improve the examination processes in that province. Steps are to be taken to dissolve examination structures and reconstitute them. The minister has also involved the Hawks in the investigation into the examination paper leaks.
The minister announced that the examination system in the country was improving, except in Mpumalanga.
"Umalusi found that the exams are comparable to the best in the world and that most question papers were of the highest standard," she said, adding that she was pleased that Umalusi has approved the quality and credibility of the exams.
Among the positive gains made by the class of 2009, the minister said there were a greater number of learners who can access tertiary education and more learners have registered for maths and maths literacy.
"We have set our focus on quality rather than quantity, that is the thrust of the new administration," said the minister.