South Africa’s education system vs the world

A graph constructed by advisory firm the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that South Africa spends more money than most of its peers on education – with worse outcomes.


BCG said that, although the factors afflicting education in the country are serious and systemic, the experience of peer nations shows that significant improvement is possible, including in the near-term.

The consulting firm said four long-standing problem areas demand immediate attention, including:

  • Teacher quality;
  • Teaching basic skills;
  • Reducing dropout rates; and
  • Effective vocational-training alternatives for young people.

BCG focussed specifically on South Africa and its challenges in a research paper entitled: Four Priorities Requiring Leadership for South Africa’s Future


BCG said that radical improvement is needed in these four areas.

1. Teacher Quality

Statistics South Africa’s 2013 general household survey cited teacher-related issues as the top challenge facing public schools.

Studies by the southern and eastern Africa consortium for monitoring educational quality, among others, have found that some 60% of people teaching math to grades one through six failed to pass tests for math at the grade level taught.

2. Basic Skills

The report noted South Africa’s students perform poorly at math, science, and reading.

Only 35% of sixth graders are numerate at an acceptable level, and only 3% of ninth graders are numerate. According to the World Economic Forum’s global information technology report 2014, South Africa ranks last (144 out of 144) in terms of the quality of math and science education.

In the 2014 South African Annual national Assessment, only 48% of ninth-grade test takers achieved scores of 50% or better for “home language” literacy and only 18% achieved scores of 50% or better for their first additional language.

3. Dropout Rates

High secondary-school dropout rates undermine skill building and employability, BCG said. The report cited the Department of Basic Education’s 2014 country progress report, which showed that although 86% of 16-to 18-year-olds are in school, only 5% complete grade 12 by age 18, the expected age of completion.

Additional research shows that students completing grade 10 face only a 52% chance of employment.

Completing grade 12 raises the probability of finding a job to 67%, but going on to post secondary education improves one’s job-finding chances enormously—completing just one additional year increases the probability to 86%.

4. Vocational Training and higher education

Further education and training (Fet) colleges—schools that should provide vocational and practical-skills training-enroll about 200,000 students a year, but this is far from sufficient to compensate for current dropout rates, the report states.

“Fet colleges tend to provide theoretical training rather than practical, hands-on skill building, which makes them both less attractive to, and less helpful for, young dropouts,” the report said.

The BCG pointed out that in  Germany, students can choose to enter vocational school at age 16, and approximately half do so.

They spend one to two days a week in school and three to four days receiving practical, on-the-job training. They select vocations on the basis of market demand for given skills.

Germany reduced youth unemployment from 15.6% in 2004 to 7.2% in February 2015 (compared with 22.1 percent for European Union as a whole).

SA needs a “mind-shift”

A big part of the solution, said Adam Ikdal, a BCG senior partner and a co-author of the report, is achieving a “mind-set shift” with respect to education.

“South Africans need to recalibrate their appreciation for the value of education and combine that newfound respect with a corresponding show of appreciation for teachers,” he said.

“This will happen only with leadership—from both government officials and role models in other areas of society. Leaders need to start a drumbeat of recognition for the critical role that educators play.”

“At the same time, this has to be balanced with local leadership at schools, including a focus on accountability for teachers’ performance, which will improve educational quality.”

South Africa’s education system vs the world

South Africa’s maths and science education has again been shown to be among the worst in the world – second last – according to the largest ever global school rankings.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), put the country behind only Ghana, while Asian countries excelled, taking the top five places, while the US and the UK, were ranked 28th and 20th, respectively.

The OECD findings are based on the test scores of 15-year-olds from 76 countries.

The maths and science rankings were based on a combination of international assessments, the OECD’s PISA test, the TIMMS tests, and TERCE tests conducted in Latin America.

“This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education,” said the OECD.

Top 20 countries

# Country
1 Singapore
2 Hong Kong
3 South Korea
4 Japan
4 Taiwan
6 Finland
7 Estonia
8 Switzerland
9 Netherlands
10 Canada
11 Poland
12 Vietnam
13 Germany
14 Australia
15 Ireland
16 Belgium
17 New Zealand
18 Slovenia
19 Austria
20 United Kingdom

Bottom 10 schools

# Country
76 Ghana
75 South Africa
74 Honduras
73 Morocco
72 Oman
71 Peru
70 Botswana
69 Indonesia
68 Qatar
67 Columbia

In April, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its Global Information Technology Report 2015, which ranked South Africa last in the quality of mathematics and science education.

South Africa also finished close to last – 139 out of 143 countries – when looking at the overall quality of its education system.

Further warning

The report’s authors sent out a stern warning to countries at the bottom of the ranking.

“There is no shortcut to improved learning outcomes in a post-2015 world economy where knowledge and skills have become the global currency, the key to better jobs and better lives.
“We cannot inherit this currency, and we can only develop it through sustained effort and investment in people.”


The report noted that the quality of schooling in a country is a powerful indicator of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run.

“Put the other way around, the economic output that is lost because of poor education policies and practices, leaves many countries what amounts to a permanent state of economic recession –  and one that can be larger and deeper than the one that resulted from the financial crisis at the beginning of the millennium, out of which many countries are still struggling to climb,” the OECD report said.

South Africa does show potential, ranking highly in potential GDP increase if all 15-year-olds achieved a basic level of education.

According to the report, the country has the second-most potential globally, and the country’s GDP would increase by 2,624% if education levels were increased over the lifetime of those pupils.

Top 10 potential growth countries

# Country Potential Growth
1 Ghana 3,881%
2 South Africa 2,624%
3 Honduras 2,016%
4 Morocco 1,591%
5 Oman 1,427%
6 Botswana 1,303%
7 Macedonia 1,137%
8 Peru 1,076%
9 Qatar 1,029%
10 Saudi Arabia 975%

More on education in South Africa

South Africa’s education system vs the world

8 reasons why kids drop out of school in South Africa

SA bottom of global maths and science list

Disturbing maths results among SA matriculants

SA Grade 9s average 10.8% for maths

Source Article – Businesstech

2 responses to “South Africa’s education system vs the world

  1. Only foreign teachers will improve south African Education apart form that forget there is no way out. Funza lushaka is just waste oof resources for the country this guyss no nothing only drugs and woman yoo. Yours talking from exprience.

  2. Let hint u south Africa hire as many foreign teachers as u can in the areas of maths and sciences that is physics biological sciences and English for five consecurtive years and l tell u.You will encounter a great improvement in your Education system and you not go wrong again for the next generation thank u