Four out of 10 ‘not good enough’

2011-01-15 20:08

Only four out of 10 learners in an average group of South African children of school-going age pass Grade 12 – a figure that should be 50% or higher, according to ­educational economist Martin Gustafsson of the University of Stellenbosch.

Gustafsson, who is also an ­adviser to the Department of ­Basic Education, says South ­Africa compares well with other ­developing countries in terms of the proportion of children of school-going age (60%) that stays in school until Grade 12.

The country’s performance is better when compared to ­countries such as Turkey, ­Colombia and the Philippines.

But the 40% pass rate needs to improve, Gustafsson says.

In the US, 77% of learners ­successfully complete secondary school. The comparable figures are 87% in the UK and close to 100% in Germany.

Gustafsson’s figures are based on a specific age group’s progress. A ­grade-based ­comparison of the 1.3 million learners who started Grade 1 in 1999, however, shows that only 27.7% passed matric last year.

Gustafsson attributes the ­significant drop in the number of learners between Grade 1 and Grade 2 – more than 220 000 – to the high number of Grade 1s who fail (see sidebar).

“Household data indicate around 12% of Grade 1 learners were repeating their grade in 2008. The figure could have been close to 20% in 1999.”

He says demographic factors such as deaths help explain the drop in the number of ­learners in the system over 12 years.

According to Granville Whittle, the spokesperson for the ­Department of Basic Education, the decrease in enrolment over the 12-year period could be ­attributed to:

» Learners repeating grades;
» Learners dropping out from Grade 10 onwards; and
» Some learners leaving the school system to join further ­education and training colleges after completing Grade 9.

According to the 2007 ­Ministerial Report on Learner ­Retention in the SA Schooling System, a ­proportion of children starting Grade 9 were not in a ­position to finish secondary school and the system did not ­provide them with sufficient ­alternatives.

Therefore the drop-out rate ­increased sharply from Grades 10 to 12.

“As a consequence, there is a high failure rate, repetition and dropping out in Grades 10 to 12, which is a waste of many years of learning,” the report reads.

It also said that almost all ­learners remained in school until they had reached the compulsory schooling age of 16 years.

Further analysis showed that the highest drop-out rate was among coloured learners, ­followed by blacks, while whites were the least likely to drop out.

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