CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Gov­ern­ment pol­icy in­ter­ven­tions aimed at solv­ing inequality would not pro­duce re­sults if the coun­try’s dys­func­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem wasn’t fixed.

This was what Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor Ser­vaas van der Berg told del­e­gates at a two-day con­fer­ence in Pretoria or­gan­ised by the Pro­gramme to Sup­port Pro-Poor Pol­icy Devel­op­ment in the pres­i­dency’s depart­ment of plan­ning, mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion in part­ner­ship with the EU.

Van der Berg was among aca­demics and civil so­ci­ety groups who pre­sented stud­ies to pol­i­cy­mak­ers on the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan agenda to re­duce poverty and elim­i­nate inequality by 2030.

The re­search work was sup­ported by grant fund­ing sourced through a part­ner­ship be­tween gov­ern­ment and the EU.

Van der Berg’s re­search, con­ducted with a 25-mem­ber team and ti­tled Ex­pand­ing Social Mo­bil­ity Through Ed­u­ca­tion, con­cen­trated on social mo­bil­ity and ed­u­ca­tion, and re­flected on the im­pact an un­equal ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem had on the labour mar­ket.

Van der Berg said the coun­try had a sys­tem was well equipped com­pared with that of Swazi­land, “learn­ers there out­per­form South African chil­dren in Grade 6 by a year”.

The study also found that the in­flu­ence of unions in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was iden­ti­fied among the prob­lems need­ing to be re­solved. Other find­ings in­cluded that:

By Grade 4, about 70% of pupils in poor schools per­form be­low the in­ter­na­tional learn­ing bench­mark;

By Grade 9, pupils in poor schools are two-thirds of a year be­hind their coun­ter­parts in for­mer Model C schools;

De­gree hold­ers earn three times more than ma­tric­u­lants;

Pupils from weak schools earn much less than those from good schools; and

The du­al­is­tic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem lim­its social mo­bil­ity and per­pet­u­ates labour mar­ket inequality. It also per­pet­u­ates a “cy­cle of des­per­a­tion”.

The study noted that the per­sis­tence of inequality was an in­dict­ment on the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem’s fail­ure to over­come past in­jus­tices, de­spite the amount of money South Africa spends on ed­u­ca­tion.

Van der Berg and his team noted that early in­ter­ven­tions were cru­cial and there was a need to fo­cus on get­ting read­ing right early in pri­mary school.

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