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Report highlights education failings in South Africa

Published on 04/12/2012

A South African government report threw the failings of the country's public education system into stark relief on Tuesday, revealing just 2.3 percent of 15-year-olds achieved a pass grade in mathematics.

A Ministry of Basic Education survey of 7.2 million pupils aged seven to fifteen showed 2.3 percent of grade nine students scored above the 50 percent mark needed to pass maths.

The pupils — normally aged around 15 — received an average mark of just 13 percent.

The report also showed that in the third grade only 24 percent of pupils got above 70 percent for proficiency in their mother tongue.

The report cited inadequate teacher training, lack of resources and overcrowding as some of the reasons contributing to the dismal state of public schools.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga described the report as a “great cause for concern” but said the results were not surprising.

“It’s a worry. It’s really a symptom of a problem that has been festering for a very long time,” Motshekga told The Star newspaper.

South Africa’s public school rankings are among the worst in the region, despite education accounting for the largest share of the national budget.

The vast majority of South African children are taught at public schools.

This year the government failed to deliver textbooks to several schools in the rural provinces of Limpopo and Eastern Cape, leaving children without books for the most part of the school year.

The department of education was forced into action by a court ruling after a rights group took them to task.

The poor state of public schools is worlds apart from private institutions, where learners have access to a world class education.

Several academics and top public figures including Archbishop Desmond Tutu have lamented the state of the country’s education system, saying it echoes the apartheid system.

Poor schooling has been blamed for the increased number of dropouts at university level, as children struggle to perform.