Watching the annual release of the matric results by the minister of basic education is like watching a magic show as a teenager. You know it is all sleight of hand but the entertainment is seductive and half the people watching the show actually believe the nonsense.

Unbelievably, those who saw through the deception received a warning in a letter from the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), which one can only assume is now the marketing arm of the government: “Analysts, commentators, politicians and parents should minimise the negative opinion of our public education system.” Why? “Our teachers and learners need their encouragement.” Well, Mr Godwin Khosa (CEO of NECT), they also need the truth. Abracadabra. The pass rate is 5.2 percentage points (printed in bold in the NECT newsletter) above the average pass rate of 73% achieved over the past eight years. Wow. If you believe that you deserve to be deceived by the magic show. As any beginning statistics student will tell you, no system that is chronically dysfunctional for 80% of its schools makes that kind of leap without dramatic and observable system-wide improvements in teaching and learning. Since that shift clearly did not happen in our schools, what on Earth is going on here? A...

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