News / Africa

South Africa’s Education System Faces Huge Challenges

Students run out of the main door as they leave the Progressive Primary in Johannesburg (2010 file photo). Progressive Primary is among an increasing number of such schools for poor South Africans underserved by a government that has struggled to close th
Students run out of the main door as they leave the Progressive Primary in Johannesburg (2010 file photo). Progressive Primary is among an increasing number of such schools for poor South Africans underserved by a government that has struggled to close th

Multimedia

Audio
  • report on challenges to South Africa's education system

This is Part 12 of a 12-part series:  Education in Africa
Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /
6 / 7/ 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12

 

Since 1994, after the introduction of compulsory education in South Africa, the number of children attending school has risen sharply.  However, structural problems in the education system have resulted in many poorly prepared high school graduates and high numbers of dropouts in the final grades.

In December, the South Africa government hailed the 70 percent pass rate for percent high school final exams, as a major achievement.  It has risen every year since 2008 when 62.5 percent of students passed.

These statistics, although reflecting an improvement in South Africa’s basic education system, mask some major shortcomings that concern many education specialists here.

Major advances

Shireen Motala, director of research and innovation in the department of Post Graduate Studies at the University of Johannesburg, tells VOA that access to basic education in South Africa is no longer the problem, and that most children stay in school until about 16.  But she notes less than 50 percent of children who start school write their final high school examination, known in South Africa as "matric."   That equals 600,000 students who dropped out by last year.

"In fact of the cohort who sat the [high school examination] in 2011, and those who started in 2000, only about, I think, around 45 percent survived, which means that a large number of children are falling by the wayside and the concern is that where do those learners actually go to," said Motala.

Marketable skills

With an unemployment rate in South Africa of 24 percent, dropouts have a bleak future as they must compete with high school, college and university graduates for jobs.

Researchers say that the country’s schools produce too few math and science graduates capable of pursuing those subjects at a tertiary level.

Graeme Bloch, visiting adjunct professor at the School of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand, says this is because teachers and schools are ill equipped to adequately teach these subjects.

"The reality of poverty and resources, that children don’t see laboratories and partly, as a result their science marks, are not very good, because they don’t have libraries at school.  Ninety-two percent of the schools don’t have libraries," said Bloch.

Rural areas lag behind

Education specialists say many historically disadvantaged schools in rural areas and townships are dysfunctional because the principals or the teachers, or both, are failing.  They say, in some cases, the failure is because dereliction of duty and many simply do not have the skills or appropriate training for their jobs, particularly in the important subjects of math and science.  Motala says there are a number of causes for these weaknesses.

"I think a number of teachers were trained during apartheid, which means the training was not up to standard," she said. "Secondly we’ve had many processes of curriculum reform in the last 15 years, which I think has been quite confusing for teachers.  And, finally, there is the big issues of language, which we haven’t taken enough cognizance of, but I think is a huge problem."

Language is a problem because subjects such as math and science are taught in English from about age 10 and many teachers don’t have the English language skills to do so.  Motala says it is fundamental that teachers are able to impart knowledge in a way that is accessible to the students.

Gender gap

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega says the government will improve the participation and performance of female students, assist students to make appropriate subject choices, ensure the correct teachers are in the correct jobs and focus teacher development efforts on subject and content knowledge.

Motshega says the government will also work with private partners, such as the Shuttleworth Foundation, which has developed math and science textbooks for Grades 10, 11 and 12.  They will be distributed to schools starting this year, free of charge.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid