The ANC did their best to dismantle the National Party’s education system.  In the process, many excellent educators, who were only too pleased to see the back of apartheid and in particular the end to racial segregation in schools, were lost to the system.  What a waste and at what a cost to the country and its student population!

Then came the disastrous Outcomes Based Education system.  However good the theory may be, SA simply did not have the skills needed to make it work in the classrooms.  Since then, various u-turns and policy changes of one or another sort, together with an overwhelmed administrative system and inadequate teaching resources, has left the majority of SA’s public schools at primary and secondary levels, pretty much devastated.  The losers of course are the pupils, school drop-outs and graduates alike.  The latter are gifted with graduate certificates that are barely worth the ink on their surface.  Try getting a reasonable entry level job or university entrance with the current matriculation certificate.  In itself it doesn’t allow passage through  the front door.  

Tales of despair are rampant.  Teachers tell of grade 12 students who cannot correctly write their own names. Teachers tell of the sense of uselessness and frustration they experience in a system that will promote a child irrespective of his fitness for promotion.  Why teach children who not only don’t wish to learn but don’t need to learn in order to gain promotion?  Why should students learn when there are no consequences for their failing to learn?

Most universities use admission exams and bridging courses to make up for weak  education and certification and most  employers in the formal sector are only employing university graduates.  Today’s degree is yesterday’s matriculation.  That obviously is not strictly true, academically speaking, but that is the effect in the work place. 

How many school entrants graduate from University?

It is popular speculation that:

  • A rough trace of 100 of a year’s high school entrants through the system might see 
    • 50 failures and drop-outs with
    • about 50 or fewer high school graduates, 
  • of the high school graduates only 25 would enroll at university,
    • Of the 25 university candidates many will require some form of bridging course to bring them to the skills level required for first year proper.
    • 6 of the 25 are likely to progress to second year and
    • about 4 of the 6 will eventually graduate from university.  

It is true that many of the high school graduates who don’t enter university would seek further education elsewhere, not all students are natural university candidates. But surely we should be doing better than a 4% university graduation rate for high school entrants?

Have things improved?

Perhaps things have improved?  The DoE are upbeat about the 2011 matriculation pass rate of 70,2%, but:

  • Of the 1 055 397 learners enrolled for grade one in 2000 only
  • 496 090 wrote matriculation exams and only    
    • 348 117 passed the 2011 exams.  
      • Thus the 2011 matriculation pass rate for 2000 grade one entrants was 33%.  
    • Of the 2011 matriculation candidates 24,3% (120 550) qualified for entry to a university 3 year bachelor’s course. 
      • So only 11% of 2000’s grade one entrants made it to university. 
  • 45.3% of mathematics candidates passed (104 033 passes). 
    • So only 20% of the matriculation candidates achieved above the 30% required pass mark.
    • This is only 10% of the 2000 grade one intake.
  • 53.4% of physical science candidates passed.
    • If all candidates wrote physical science that only represents 25% of the 2000 grade one intake.
  • There was a drop in students writing matriculation exams in 2011 (496 090) compared to 2010 (537 543). Should we be concerned about that, or was there a proportional drop in 2000’s grade one entrants compared to those of 1999?

See Cautious Optimism

The Direct Democracy Forum (DDF) don’t think there is much to crow about.

Primary School Education:

Why do we have such miserable results?  Part of this has certainly to do with the quality of primary school education.

South Africa spends almost 20% of its national budget (18.2% of 2010 expenditure) on education, yet had worse results than many other African third world countries who spend half that proportion on education.  We should be riding the crest of an education wave, but we are not.

In a 1999 study, our

  • grade 3 pupils performed 1 to 2 years below their grade levels and
  • grade 6 pupils performed 3 years below their grade levels.  
    • Put another way, Grade 6s  performed at Grade 3 levels.
  • The Third International  Mathematics and Science Repeat Study conducted in 1998 saw only the most proficient of SA students equaling the average performances of  students from Singapore.
  • A local DoE study showed that 1996 grade 4 students performed at less than 50% proficiency levels in literacy, numeracy and life skills, for the levels expected of them (Grade 4s performing at Grade 2 levels?).  
  • Tanzanian students performed on average 50% better in reading skills at grade 6 levels  than SA Students, even though the Tanzanian education budget, as a % of GDP, was half of SA’s.  

Some reading: The Quality of Primary School Education in S A (Chisholm, 2004)                                         Mathematics achievement in SA (Moloi post 2009)

 High School:

When you consider that grade 7 is the final primary school grade and grade 8 the first high school grade, no wonder high school students perform so badly.  

Clearly there is more to education than just throwing money at the problem.

We are not going to claim that the DoE don’t care or are incompetent.  They are doing the best they can but, sadly, something is not going according to plan.

Current views:

  •  In case you think our view of the situation is somehow overstated or outdated, a recent opinion by senior educator, Jonathan Jansen, puts it much more bluntly, describing South Africa’s failure in the field of education as a time bomb(April 2012).
  • This is not the opinion of a lightweight in SA’s education system.  Who’s Who SA describe Mr Johansen as “Rector of the University of the Free State. He is the  Honorary Professor of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand and Visiting Fellow at the National Research Foundation.”