Poor ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards the big­gest ob­sta­cle to progress in SA

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO OPINION -

Ed­u­ca­tion the sin­gle great­est ob­sta­cle to so­cio-eco­nomic ad­vance­ment in South Africa says the Cen­tre for Risk Anal­y­sis (CRA)

SEEK­ING to pro­vide a de­fin­i­tive as­sess­ment of the qual­ity and out­put of the South African ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the cen­tre’s re­port finds that, while there have been sig­nif­i­cant gains un­der the coun­try’s demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion, se­ri­ous neg­a­tive fea­tures pose a real threat to so­cio-eco­nomic ad­vance­ment, and are repli­cat­ing in­stead of re­vers­ing un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity.

The con­se­quence, the re­port warns, is that fail­ures in our school­ing sys­tem are deny­ing the ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple the chance of a mid­dle class life.

Among pos­i­tive out­comes high­lighted in the re­port are that:

• Pre-school en­rol­ment is up 270,4% since 2000, set­ting a much bet­ter ba­sis for fu­ture school through­put;

• The pro­por­tion of peo­ple aged 20 or older with no school­ing has de­creased from 13% in 1995 to 4,8% in 2016;

• The pro­por­tion of ma­tric can­di­dates re­ceiv­ing a bach­e­lor’s pass has in­creased from 20,1% in 2008 to 28,7% in 2017;

• Near on 100% of schools now have clean wa­ter and elec­tric­ity;

• Univer­sity en­rol­ment num­bers are up 289,5% since 1985 and up more than 100% since 1995; and

• The ra­tio of white to black univer­sity grad­u­ates was 3,7:1 in 1991 and 0,3:1 in 2015.

• But CRA Di­rec­tor Frans Cronje warns that ‘ul­ti­mately it is the neg­a­tives that over­whelm’.

• Among these are that:

• Just un­der half of chil­dren who en­rol in Grade 1 will make it to Grade 12;

• Just 28% of peo­ple aged 20 or older have com­pleted high school;

• Just 6,9% of ma­tric can­di­dates will pass maths with a grade of 70% to 100% – a smaller pro­por­tion than was the case in 2008;

• In the poor­est quin­tile of schools, fewer than 1/100 ma­tric can­di­dates will re­ceive a dis­tinc­tion in maths;

• The black higher ed­u­ca­tion par­tic­i­pa­tion rate is just 15,6%, while that for In­dian and white peo­ple (aged 20–24) is 49,3% and 52,8%; and

• The un­em­ploy­ment rate for ter­tiary qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als has in­creased from 7,7% in 2008 to 13,2% to­day.

Set against data that shows ed­u­ca­tion to be ‘the pri­mary in­di­ca­tor that de­ter­mines the liv­ing stan­dards tra­jec­tory of a young South African’, three key de­fi­cien­cies are of par­tic­u­lar con­cern, writes Cronje.

The first is the poor qual­ity of maths ed­u­ca­tion, a good maths pass in ma­tric be­ing a key marker in de­ter­min­ing ac­cess to the mid­dle class.

‘While maths ed­u­ca­tion is poor across the board, the qual­ity is worse in the poor­est quin­tile of schools, leav­ing no doubt that school ed­u­ca­tion is repli­cat­ing trends of poverty and in­equal­ity in our so­ci­ety.’

The sec­ond is the low rate of ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion par­tic­i­pa­tion of black peo­ple.

The labour mar­ket ab­sorp­tion rate for ter­tiary qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als was 75,6% in 2017 as op­posed to just 43,3% for the coun­try as a whole – but just 3,1% of black peo­ple over the age of 20 have a univer­sity de­gree com­pared to 13,9% and 18,3% for In­dian and white peo­ple.

The third con­cern is the still very high school drop-out rate, with just over half of chil­dren com­plet­ing high school at all.

‘In an econ­omy that is evolv­ing in favour of high­skilled ter­tiary in­dus­tries and in which po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and pol­icy are be­ing used to drive up the cost of un­skilled labour, this means that the ma­jor­ity of those chil­dren are un­likely to ever find gain­ful em­ploy­ment.’

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