Falling lower down the World Economic Forum (WEF) global information and communication technology (ICT) rankings is becoming an annual occurrence for South Africa. WEF recently released its Global Information Technology Report 2015, which ranked South Africa last in the quality of mathematics and science education. South Africa also finished close to last – 139 out of 143 countries – when looking at the overall quality of its education system.
According to national South African online publication MyBroadband
The Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) results show that South Africa’s performance is very close to the bottom of the surveyed countries. South Africa’s poor performance in mathematics and science education quality was highlighted in the first three TIMSS reports – 1995, 1999, and 2002. What happened in 2002 is that grade nine students in South Africa started to write the grade eight tests. The reason was simple: the grade eight TIMSS assessment was too difficult for eighth grade students in South Africa. To put South Africa’s latest TIMSS results in context – our grade nine students performed worse than grade eight students in other developing countries such as Morocco, Indonesia, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Africacheck.org is quick to “sort fact from fiction”, pointing out that this ranking system is opinion-based, the public perception of “business leaders” derived from an annual “Executive Opinion Survey”. Nevertheless, the statistics make for a grim reality.
A 2012 study published by the University of Stellenbosch found that while 71% of children in grade six were functionally literate, only 58.6% could be considered functionally numerate. The study noted that “at least a quarter of children are enrolled but have learnt so little in six years of formal full-time schooling that they have not even mastered functional literacy or numeracy”. The basic education department’s own academic assessments revealed last year that just three percent of school pupils in grade nine had achieved more than 50% in mathematics. Concerns have also been expressed about South Africa’s high dropout rate. For example, when the 2013 matric class started grade one in 2002, there were 1,261,827 pupils. By the time they sat their final exams, those numbers had more than halved to 562,112.
Mellon Educate Results Programme
This story can make for happier reading however, as showcased by our latest announcement on facebook, where we demonstrated the remarkable improvements achieved in Mathematics and Science by learners in the schools that Mellon Educate volunteers constructed and refurbished just last November on the Nelson Mandela Tribute Building Blitz.