Cape Town - When it comes to education, the Eastern Cape is a failed state.That's according to education economist Dr Nic Spaull.Spaull said on Wednesday that, while inequalities in terms of resources contributed to the disparities between pass rates, the effectiveness of poorer provinces also had to be assessed.The 2015 national pass rate fell to 70.7%, from 75.8% in 2014.The Western Cape was the best performing province, with an 84.7% pass rate.The worst performing province was the Eastern Cape, with a pass rate of 56.8%."The Eastern Cape, for example, is a failed state. I think it is so dysfunctional and so captured by special interests and union issues," Spaull said.Until those issues were addressed in underperforming provinces, it did not matter how many resources were pumped in, there were not going to be any improvements, he said."Because they are essentially dysfunctional provinces."He said it was possible for students from the more rural provinces like the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo to succeed, but they were the exception to the rule.'Low quality education a poverty trap'Those successes needed to be celebrated, according to Spaull."For the vast majority of students, low quality education does become a poverty trap. It is very difficult to escape."Factors like a low socio-economic background and the low quality of education of parents and lack of funds for universities worked against these learners."It is possible to succeed against the odds, even if you are from the Eastern Cape. But we are talking less than 5% that manage to get to university or get degrees such as engineering."The country had the most unequal education system in the world, Spaull said, and government was not doing enough to ameliorate these inequalities.It was not all bad news, however.Spaull said, while the pass rate had decreased in 2015, the number of students who had passed had increased.And the number of students obtaining Bachelor passes was also on the rise.These were important victories, he said.