(Final updateI’ve built a map for the 2016 passrates, which were released earlier today, using the same techniques. You can find it here. I’m leaving this map up for comparison, but for the very latest school information check out the new version here.)

We’re entering in to the most important time of the year for youngsters all over the country: matric result season. In just a few days time, thousands of high school leavers will find out whether or not they have the matric results they need to secure the next stage in life that they want, or they’ll be forced – for better or worse – to re-evaluate their options.

I predict that there will be the usual headlines of doom, accusations that matrics are too easy, recriminations and not enough celebration of the school leavers who have done really well. Because there always is. This year the arguments will be particularly heated: #FeesMustFall has made the decision to go on to tertiary education harder for many families, and in Gauteng we’ll be looking to see if the ongoing experiment to improve results via digital means is bearing any fruit.

In anticipation, we’ve put together the interactive map above which shows almost every public school in the country and its matric results for the last three years (2013-2015). The data has been taken from official reports released by the Department of Education over the last 12 months and – we admit – may contain errors. Of 6 773 schools we could find details for, we could find no address information for 367, and several others are a “best guess”. If you find any mistakes in the details, or can help us locate those schools without addresses, please let us know.

(Update – As pointed out by Fiona below, the data is drawn from the NSC reports so includes around 400 independent schools which also sit the government exams. I’ll look at ways to filter those out in a future iteration.)

In the meantime, mapping schools like this is an immediately productive exercise. What you can see immediately is that South Africa doesn’t necessarily have an education crisis – but certain regions definitely do. Schools marked in green are those which achieved higher than 50% passrates in 2015 (darker shades = better results). Schools in red achieved less (darker shades = worse results).

There is, of course, one huge caveat: the matric passrate is massively skewed by a very high dropout rate. According to some sources, half of South African students drop out of school before its time to take their matric exam – unfortunately I was unable to find information about which regions have the highest dropout rates. If it’s Gauteng, for example, then it undermines the relative success of that province shown in the map. If it’s KZN, then it makes the huge swathes of red considerably worse. According to this story, it’s the Free State and North West which have the highest drop out rates. (Update – I’ve done some digging, and the Department of Education claims that 86% of 16-18-year-olds are in education. That may include non-matric classes, however, but until I see more numbers I consider the dropout rate somewhat misleading too.)

Right now the map only contains information up to the 2015 matric results. We’ll be adding this year’s as soon as we can.

(Update 2 – I want to clarify that the size of the dots in the map is based on the quintile system for school funding. Small dots are the poorest schools which qualify for bigger bursaries, large dots are the richest schools which get smaller subsidies from the state. I’ll look at this properly next week but visually – at least – it seems that relative wealth is far less of an indicator of school success than geography…)

Update 3

For people asking about the staff to pupil ratios, I’ve had a look at the latest data from the Department of Education and it seems fairly reliable – although there’s some bizarre reporting of schools where two teachers apparently look after one and a half thousand pupils. At first glance, the information seems most inaccurate in poorer schools, so I’m not going to build it into the interactive just yet until I can be more sure.

What is interesting, though, is that there doesn’t appear to be much of a relationship between pupil:teacher ratios and matric results. Overall, there’s a very low correlation (just over -0.1) in the graph below. That said, the info I have is for schools as a whole – it doesn’t look at class sizes for matric specific years – so I’m including it mostly as a curiousity here.

School matric passrates graphed against student:teacher ratios, South Africa 2015.
Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.