News / Africa

Basic Education in South Africa Gets Poor Grades

Pupils of Winnie Ngwekasi Primary School in Soweto study in a classroom in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 2009.
Pupils of Winnie Ngwekasi Primary School in Soweto study in a classroom in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 2009.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anita Powell
— South Africa’s basic education system got a report card this week, and the grades are not good, especially in math. The results have caused an outcry in a nation struggling to overcome decades of inequality and to give services to all citizens.
 
South Africa’s government tested some 7 million students in 24,000 schools, and this year tested ninth graders for the first time. The conclusion of those tests: Young South African students are being left behind, especially in math.
 
This year, the average first-grader scored 68 percent on a math test. Her ninth-grade counterpart scored a dismal 13 percent. That first-grader scored 58 percent on a test in her first home language - the ninth-grader, just 43 percent.
 
Basic education

The department of basic education noted that not all the news is bad: Young students, especially third-graders, appeared to make gains compared to last year. Thirty-seven percent of third-grade math students scored more than 50 percent in the math test this year, compared to 17 percent last year.
 
But those gains appear to have evaporated by ninth grade, with barely 2 percent of ninth-graders scoring more than 50 percent in math tests.
 
Basic education department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said even though the results have been criticized, they show positive developments.  He said the results show a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor, with poor students scoring well compared to their richer counterparts. He also said the study confirms that school attendance is high and that the school system is becoming more stable.
 
But he acknowledges not all of the results are so encouraging.
 
“When you go into the deeper into the actual work in the classrooms, indeed we are deeply, deeply disappointed, because that’s where it matters. You find that the numbers are not tallying," said Lesufi. "Because it’s not only in math, it also includes language, it also includes areas where we believe that learners should be excelling in those particular areas. So we have a combination, or a mixture, emotionally, of good and bad emotions when it comes to the components of the results.”
 
Deemed unacceptable

The youth league of the ruling African National Congress said it was “appalled” by the results. How can we achieve economic freedom, the league asked, when our future leaders have difficulty reading, writing and counting?
 
Thabo Kupa, a member of the league’s executive committee, said the league acknowledged the improvements, but said the results were still not satisfying.

“It is disappointing to see a drastic outcome in terms of the grade nine, where only 2 percent of the total people have actually achieved more than 50 percent," said Kupa. "So for us, it’s a call for the minister and the department to really gear up and ensure that there is an improvement at that level. Because our dream and the fight for economic freedom will not be achieved for as long as we improve those outcomes.”

South Africa’s education sector also has been mired in scandal this year. The basic education department was taken to court over accusations it failed to deliver textbooks to students in the poor northern Limpopo province. A clerk was arrested and accused of dumping about 700 of those badly needed books into a river in Limpopo.

Education investment
 
The nation spends 207 billion rand - about $23 billion in U.S. dollars - to educate an estimated 12 million students. That budget is set to increase in the next fiscal year to 236 billion rand.

Lesufi said the education sector needs more.
 
“I know many people say if you take the budget of the country, the highest budget goes to education. But it’s not sufficient. The majority of people have underestimated the impact of apartheid and the impact of inequalities in our country, and it comes and manifests itself in different forms," he said. "So even though we get a sufficient chunk out of the budget, it will never be sufficient to deal with the challenges that we have within the education system. So, if I have to ask government, unfortunately, I would have to ask that additional resources should be made available for us.”
 
South Africa spends a bigger share of its budget on education than do most African nations. But clearly, it’s still not quite making the grade.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Blake from: USA
December 05, 2012 6:46 PM
Most education studies show that student performance is related to literacy of parents and early childhood literacy preparation, student health and nutrition including stability and educational support in the home. It will take time to rectify the many years of inequities of the Apartheid system, and an adequate number of teachers trained effectively to handle the challenges. Language and dialect differences between home and school also affect learning success.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid