Cape Town - The New Year tradition of publishing the names of successful matriculants in newspapers may be coming to an end because it can lead to “self-harm and even suicide” for matric failures.
A report by a ministerial committee on the National Senior Certificate makes a range of recommendations on key concerns relating to matric exams and says the practice of publishing results has “unintended consequences”.
“The extreme embarrassment of candidates who are not successful and are so publicly revealed as failures has serious consequences, and there are cases annually of its leading to self-harm and even suicide.
“This practice should be reviewed, given the unintended harm that it may cause and the modern technological alternatives for communication,” the report states.
Alternative ways of releasing the results should be found.
“It is therefore recommended that reporting lists of successful learners’ names and reporting schools by performance levels in the newspapers and other media in the traditional manner be avoided in the future.
“This should not prevent the media from reporting on the individual success stories of learners or schools,” the report says.
The practice has also been sharply criticised by the Congress of SA Students (Cosas), which says it infringes pupils’ right to privacy.
Earlier this year it was reported that Cosas was launching a campaign to burn newspapers that carried matric results.
On Tuesday Cosas provincial co-ordinator Niyaaz Hakim said a pupil’s matric results “was nobody else’s business”.
“One of the basic rights is the right to privacy. What is the benefit of publishing the results? Only the capitalists benefit from it.”
Professor Maureen Robinson, dean of Stellenbosch University’s faculty of education, said that while publishing results was traditional and looked forward to, she agreed the practice should be reconsidered.
“The very public display of these results creates a hype that can be very anxiety-provoking for the individual learners, their families and the schools.
“Furthermore, the results are in themselves not very informative. A list of who has passed Grade 12 tells us nothing about the factors that might have influenced the results, like learners’ subject choices, dropout rates, etc.”
She said the public would be better served with more substantial information about what was going on in schools, which could be supplemented with stories about individual and school successes and challenges.
Associate Professor Rob Siebörger of UCT’s school of education said he regarded the publication of results as “a very dated practice”.
“This practice goes back to times when newspapers were the only media and results depended on the postal system to reach candidates.”
The practice had the potential to cause unnecessary embarrassment to pupils and schools, and it “can hide what are otherwise very significant achievements or improvements”.
“For example, a school which has a marked improvement in its mathematics results has something very significant to celebrate, but this might be obscured by the fact that its overall matric pass numbers or numbers of A symbols have declined,” he said.
“There is very little positive benefit to the publication of the results in newspapers other than some bragging rights, as what really counts now is not the broad category of pass or symbol, but the way in which results will convert to points for tertiary admission - something which the published lists cannot convey. However, I believe it is important that there should still be public access to this information on an official website some weeks after the learners have been informed of their results.”
Troy Martens, spokeswoman for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said the report had been circulated to the nine education MECs and was on the agenda for the meeting of the council of education ministers next month.