A lot more pupils in Grade One

2012-11-27 00:00

MORE children are beginning their schooling earlier, and fewer are still in school in their late teens.

The number of children aged between five and seven attending school has improved significantly since 1996, according to the 2011 census.

This as the attendance rates for 19-year-olds and older have shown a marked decline.

Stats released by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) in October, showed that attendance rates in the foundation phase of schooling (Grade R to Grade 3) have improved dramatically.

South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) researcher Jonathan Snyman said the proportion of five-year-olds attending an educational institution has grown from 23% in 1996 to 81% in 2011, an overall increase of 252%.

“The proportion of six-year-olds attending an educational institution grew from 49% to 93%, or by 96%. Similarly, the proportion of seven-year-olds attending an educational institution increased from 73% to 96%, a rise of 32%,” the researcher said.

It is compulsory for children aged between seven and 15 to attend school, according to the South African Schools Act of 1996.

The proportion of 19-year-olds attending an educational institution declined from 65% in 1996 to 59% in 2011, an overall decrease of nine percent. The proportion of those aged 20 and older also showed a marked decline between 1996 and 2011. For instance, the proportion of 21 year olds declined from 46% to 35%, a drop of 24%.

Drop-out rates are particularly high in the final grades of high school, as well as at universities.

Only 35% of pupils who started grade 10 in 2009 went on to finish matric in 2011.

Snyman said of all the students who enrolled for a three-year degree in 2008, only 14% graduated at the end of 2010.

“The decline in attendance at educational institutions by people aged between 19 and 24 is particularly worrying, given South Africa’s skills shortage and the country’s high rate of youth unemployment,” Snyman added.

He said those in this age bracket should be studying at Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and also at universities.

“Given that only a small proportion of matric students pass well enough to get into university, it is important that the government improves access to and the quality of education offered at FET colleges to accommodate those that cannot study at university.”

He said reasons for dropping out include lack of finance or lack of competence.

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