Putting too much emphasis on the matric pass rate is a mistake and could damage the education system, Basic Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan said on Wednesday.
"It is important not to develop an obsession with the pass rate," Soobrayan said ahead of the release of the national matric results in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
"A focus purely on the pass rate could become a perversion that can impact negatively on the system."
He said the attention paid to the pass rate could cause public and policy makers to ignore other priorities in education.
Soobrayan said it was inevitable the media and public should pay attention to the pass rate. However, they should pay attention to the "quality" of the passes.
A total of 73.9 percent of matric pupils passed in 2012, said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
This is an improvement on the 70.2 percent pass rate in 2011.
Gauteng had the highest pass rate at 83.9 percent.
Eastern Cape was at 61.6 percent, Limpopo 66.9 percent, Mpumalanga 70 percent, KwaZulu-Natal 73.1 percent, Northern Cape 74.6 percent, Free State 81.1 percent, and North West had a 79.5 percent pass rate.
There was a slight decline in the Western Cape - from 2011's 82.9 percent to 82.8 percent in 2012.