The South African education system is not one of the worst in the world, the department of basic education has said.
Providing a technical analyses of the schooling system in Midrand, the department’s Director-General Mathanzima Mweli said the conclusion that the South African education system was one of the worst in the world is not correct.
Matanzima, who was speaking ahead of the announcement of this year’s matric pass rate, said South Africa was one of the worst countries when compared with other countries which participated in a number of international assessments.
“We are not at the bottom. The facts don’t seem to indicate that. The facts don’t indicate that at all. It is just corridor talk. When people say we are at the bottom, they mean we are at the bottom of those countries who choose to participate. Not many countries have the courage to participate [in international assessment projects]. I think there are only three countries which participate from Africa.”
There are very few countries which participate in international studies, Matanzima said, adding that the 2013 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, South Africa recorded the biggest improvement.
“We were at the bottom but we were the best improved. The minister likes saying we are cats running with tigers. The tigers are the likes of Russia and Brazil.”
The biggest challenge in the system is the failure and repetition rates.
“This is what people mean when they say the bulk of pupils who enter the system never make it to matric. They don’t drop out of the system as such. The issue is that many of them take many years to complete. Some take 15 years and some take well over 20 years,” he said. Very few young people are not part of the schooling system, he said.
His presentation also showed that the number of young people obtaining their National Senior Certificate has increased exponentially over the years. “The number of students obtaining matric has increased. The highest performance was just 72% in 2013. The National Development Plan says it should be 80%. We hope the class of 2018 will make us proud, do better, and surpass the class of 2013.”
Further, the report also showed that the complaints about problems in the education system have gone down somewhat.
“We have overcome big classrooms and the lack of learner and teacher support material.”
A few years ago the ANC took a decision that all children between the ages of 0 and 4 should attend an early childhood development centre or grade R. Matanzima said the country has almost achieved a universal access to early childhood development centres.
“As it is, every learner who comes to grade 1 has attended an early childhood development centre of one kind or the other. A decision was also made that the system should be migrated from the department of social development to the department of basic education. We are working towards that. Countries whose education systems work well have childhood development centres under education departments,” he said.
The education landscape, he said, needed a dramatic shift from academia to technical and vocation studies. “Of the 24 000 schools we have, less than 1 500 are technical high schools. Changing this will be an expensive exercise, but it has to be done. We will start coding-in the foundation phase. Other countries are already talking about the fifth industrial revolution. Technology informs our day to day interaction.”
The Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement, which was introduced 5 years ago, is one of the best curriculums in the world, Matanzima said, adding that, “We just need to socialise teachers to teach skills as embedded in the curriculum.”
He raised the alarm about a significant drop in pupils taking up accounting and business studies.
“I was talking to unions earlier on and I told them that if we don’t address the problem, we may need to import accountants from neighbouring countries in a few years.”