Every year, Matric results come out and – while students are celebrating or commiserating – a furore follows. Because South Africa’s annual Matric results are traditionally dismal and disappointing. But not this year! 2013’s results are a triumph! The highest in 20 years! Crack the champagne! Educational reform is a success!
But only if you listen to the Department of Education.

Sweet statistics
The numbers are certainly pretty: the Matric pass rate has gone from 62.6% in 2008 to 78.2% in 2013. The problem is that statistics are the numerical equivalent of choosing a mate while wearing beer goggles – they look incredible.

Until you really look at them.
People love statistics because they’re a solid representation for (or against) something. But just because people who feel depressed eat about 55% more chocolate, doesn’t mean you should be chomping through 7 Bar Ones on a bad day.

Ugly numbers
It’s the same for Matric results. Which is why we need to be aware of other numbers related to 2013’s results:
•Subject pass rates are calculated with a 30%-40% base rate. So, when learners are given a pass at 30%, it means they’ve got 70% wrong.
•Student dropouts skew the findings since approximately 50% of learners will leave school between Grade one and Matric.
•Subjects on offer have been made easier, and more students have been encouraged to switch to these so that they can pass final exams.

Scary truth
While the Department of Education - and anyone else fooled by the pretty statistics – is celebrating success, the true numbers are incredibly sobering for the rest of us.

The scariest of them all? There are approximately 12 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the country and only 562,112 end up writing Matric. There isn’t a pair of beer goggles in the world that can hide that kind of ugliness.