25 March 2019


Poor schooling the biggest obstacle to progress in SA

by: Semphete Correspondent   date: 04 May 2018

Education is the single greatest
obstacle to socio-economic advancement
in South Africa, according to the April edition of Fast Facts from the Centre for Risk Analysis.
The report seeks to provide a definitive assessment of the quality and output
of the South African education system. The 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 fallen
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, as author of the report, CRA Director
Frans Cronje, warns, “ultimately it is
the negatives that overwhelm”.
Among these are that:
• Just under half of children who enrol
in Grade one 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,
less 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
The first is the poor quality of maths ed-ucation, 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
The second is the low rate of tertiary
education participation for 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 high-skilled 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.”
The sum of these three concerns leads
to the inescapable conclusion that “the
education system represents the single
greatest obstacle to socio-economic advancement
in South Africa”.