SA's adult literacy level lags behind

2012-01-25 11:45

Johannesburg - South Africa's adult literacy level is lagging behind other emerging markets even though it spends more on it, the SA Institute of Race Relations said on Wednesday.

The country has an adult literacy rate of 89%, and the country's public education spending as a proportion of total government spending amounted to 18% in 2009/10, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report.

Chile's and Indonesia's proportional spend was also 18%, but they had adult literacy rates of 98.6% and 92% respectively.

Lithuania and Poland's adult literacy levels were 99.7% and 99.5%, with their expenditure amounting to 13% and 12% respectively.

Hungary and Bulgaria had an education expenditure of 10%, with adult literacy rates at 99% and 98%.

Of the Brazil, Russia, India, China (Brics) grouping, Brazil's adult literacy rate stood at 90% although its education expenditure was only 16% of total government expenditure.

Russia and China's literacy levels were at 99.5% and 93.7%, but no data was available for how much they spent. India had the lowest adult literacy rate at 62.8%.

Jonathan Snyman, a researcher at the institute, said: "The way forward relies on strengthening the quality of teaching at school level and focusing on the commitment of teachers and principals."

The UN defines the adult literacy rate as the proportion of people aged 15 years and over who can read, write, and speak.

  • Janice - 2012-01-25 12:02

    No huge surprize here!!! This is afterall Souf Effrika!

      Marcell - 2012-01-25 12:40

      Liberation before Education. Viva Azania Viva! Dis lekkerder om 'n skool af te brand as om te leer.

  • jaclynwds - 2012-01-25 12:06

    I'd like to hear how much our rates have improved over the years. It's great we're spending money on education, now let's refine our methods! Does everything always have to be so negative!?

      Deon - 2012-01-25 16:41

      It probably worsened the last 18 years.

  • an0nthinker - 2012-01-25 12:06

    Maybe if our educational system hadn't become the crap it is now, things would be looking better. Teachers striking when it suites them,department forcing teachers to teach subjects they are not qualified to teach, children skating by on 30% pass marks. What's to be expected?

  • lindz.kok - 2012-01-25 12:13

    yes anc we love you puting in time and eford where it is most needed, name changes secracy bills oh yes and lets not forget prohibeting people from anouncing weather warnings... the illiterate 18% all has seats in goverment!

  • Larry - 2012-01-25 12:18

    The literacy level's are disgraceful and I am talking about our Leadership, not just the poor oke in the rural areas.

  • mullervince - 2012-01-25 12:23

    This is to be blamed on the ruling government. Even ministers, and the majority of their high profiles are not properly educated. What do they say??? Lead by example.

  • Gregory Jurgens - 2012-01-25 12:34

    A legacy of apartheid .

      Mercha - 2012-01-25 13:21

      i fully agree Gregory, and surely people may say apartheid is over lets stop blaming it for our current situations but this particular problem is however not the case. Both my parents were forced to stop their schooling at around the age of 12, my grandparents don't have any education, my husband's mother and grandmother were forced to work on farms as children without pay. And that mattered in those days was surviving. Fortunately, by the Grace of God, we received the opportunity. And i believe this would only have been so with the break-down of the apartheid system. Unfortunately this is a time issue and one can only wait for better results as time goes by.

      Tommy - 2012-01-25 13:30

      That may be true, but there are also exceptions. My gardener of 56 years old can write, spell and construct proper sentences, while our domestic worker of 25 can't spell or use tenses properly.

      SarelJBotha - 2012-01-25 14:36

      No, legacy of not making the best of available opportunity.

      goyougoodthing - 2012-01-25 15:29

      Um the schools in the former homelands may not have been great, but they were better by all accounts than the rubbish we have now. And the former government schools, from Model C and downwards, were impeccable, some of the best education in the word and it is gone! I get kids from private schools writing essays for me at Uni and they can't spell - and these are the bright ones!

      Deon - 2012-01-25 16:44

      Rather the legacy of ANC leaders during apartheid years: "No education before liberation", they are still in a struggle.

  • Patrick - 2012-01-25 12:46

    whatever anc touches either gold or a beautiful country it turns to ashes.

      Cameronl - 2012-01-25 13:10

      their term in power has proven just that

  • Tebogo - 2012-01-25 13:01

    89% did they conduct the survey from varsities cos i sure know for a fact it's lower then this just judging from high school kids i meet at clinics *hint*

      Mike - 2012-01-25 15:00

      The 89% "quoted" was the reason Blade said that we must improve maths literacy!!

  • Bibi - 2012-01-25 13:03

    Money ain't going to fix it, does not matter how much they throw at it. I am not talking about the scholars, I am talking about the ineffectiveness, lack of dedication and bad (& rotten)leadership from the teachers up. What happened to all the excellent teahers training colleges - to close most of them was one of the biggest mistakes the ANC has made since 1994.

      heinrich.crouse - 2012-01-25 13:32

      Quite. Scrapping the inspector system for schools was also just as mystifying. The only way all this makes sense is if one assumes the ANC is trying to keep the majority of the population from getting quality education.

  • Peter - 2012-01-25 13:10

    Thats because all the educational money is being stolen....

  • Lana - 2012-01-25 13:16

    For those people who want to bring in "apartheid” The ANC has taken over government of this country going on 20 YEARS ago. Twenty years is a bloody long time to learn to read and write and do simpleton maths! You only need 30 (THIRTY) % to advance to the next grade. Spelling is non-existent in schools today where 20 years ago you got m@*rd if you could not spell! The single best way to learn ANYTHING is to READ. You go ask any youngster today if they read so-so's book and they will tell you "NO, but I have seen the movie!" Parents should also start taking responsibility - buy your kids books and make them love reading. My boys love reading, yes I spend hundreds of rands on books and I am seriously running out of space in my house, but at least I know that they will not be one of the "semi-literate" adults in society. Everybody wants everything, but nobody is willing to work or sacrifice anything to obtain it. Getting good grades and obtaining a basic education is HARD work – nothing can be taught to an unwilling mind. The willingness to want to do better must be there. Unfortunately this 30% pass does more damage to our children than good. 30% Is a joke and they are not doing our children any favours by letting them pass at that % - they think they are clever just to be mocked in the working place or at university. When it comes to education and manners in my house there is absolutely no democracy.

      Bibi - 2012-01-25 13:24

      Exactly who can be fully educated with a pass of 30%? They are being taught to aim low. I would actually take it as an insult if my government tells me I only need 30% to pass - I will think they have a low regard for me. And the same goes for the lower entrance percentage to study medicine etc. The education department clearly thinks that black students does not have the same brain capacity as their white counterparts as they only need 70% versus 90% for whites to study any form of medicine.

      Cameronl - 2012-01-25 15:09

      hahaha - I'm 33 now, when I did my schooling the level was clearly alot higher than it is today, I recieved jacks if I screwed up :) none of this nambypamby "go sit in the corner" b.s. To have a 30% pass requirement was "lower grade" back then if my memory serves me right, thats basically saying you are retarded. in high school I only knew of one person in my entire matric group that took lower grade, what does that say about todays education standards...... uh need I even say anything (besides my parents would have kicked my.... a s s if I did lower grade, I may not be a rocket scientist but hell I passed and my average was nowhere near 30%) To pass with 30% is a complete joke and anyone should be ashamed to have that on their certificate confirming their "so called pass"

      Lana - 2012-01-25 15:46

      @Bob - interested in starting a "swop" programme? I can sure use some more Afrikaans books - they are very hard to get. I mean proper books not this lovie-stupid books!

  • heinrich.crouse - 2012-01-25 13:28

    This figure seems high because one is deemed to be functionally literate having completed 7th grade. In our backward education system however, it is possible to get much further than grade 7 without being functionally literate. We consistently massage our standards downward to preserve the fragile egos and identities of the disadvantaged.

  • Raul - 2012-01-25 13:30

    And what is the UNDERSTANDING RATE?

      The-Azanian - 2012-01-25 13:31


  • Sean - 2012-01-25 13:42

    Typical African political move.Keep the electorate illiterate and then you control them totally.Has been done effectively in other african states,most recently Zim. And since the ANC has come to power,the MOST layoffs in government have been the teachers

  • Dan - 2012-01-25 14:30

    Guys , guys , come on give the Azanians a fair chance . The dutch raped and F%% the country up from 1652, Then the British had their chance to really bugger it up from 1806. The afrikaners from 1961 (of which im one ) not to be outdone , really tried their best to further mess this place up . Now please give the Azanians a fair chance to F@ck up the little bit thats left and reduce us to a real third world country as it should be . Africa is NOT comfortable with quality education , infrastructure and commerce .

  • SarelJBotha - 2012-01-25 14:32

    That is why they have little pictures on the baloot papers. Even the unliterate and totally ignorant can remember to make a cross behind the ANC picture.

  • Diaan - 2012-01-25 15:10

    The Un 's definition is RACIST,and reek of colonialism . The must take into account that we are disadvantaged and therfore have to change the defenition to take our disadvatage into account. It should be "" if I know someone that can read , write or speak "" alternatively , setting schools allight , participating in a strike , failing woodwork , or past experience as a cattle herder ( like bra Jacob) should also be included . SHEES!!! you lot of imperialist racists Anycase who need education ??? You can become rich by failing woodwork , have a house in sandton . You can be a cattle herder and just know a frend like Shabir to take care of the money .. Eish education , thats for stuped Europeans

  • Cameronl - 2012-01-25 15:22

    alot of people are having a history debate here today on whythis country has a teeny weeny problem with literacy, well dear people its not history, its a current affair, as in whats going on TODAY! wake up ppl, get back on the topic at hand and stop whining about the past, it`s over there is nothing you can do about it. What you can do is change tomorrow by working on today`s problems.....

  • Dan - 2012-01-25 15:22

    Whats this 30% thing to pass???? Its something that the AGENTS of apartheid devised . didnt we ALL fought equally hard for our freedom , didnt we ALL suffer in the 1976 soweto uprising ???We should ALL be passed , why should you descriminate against us . If i have not got Taxi money to go to school , which is apaprtheids fault , then you want to punish me more by not passing me ?? eishhh its not fair

  • thelittlegreenhouse - 2012-01-25 15:27

    Spot the Connection: "South Africa's adult literacy level is lagging behind other emerging markets even though it spends more on it"

  • papisean - 2012-01-25 17:50

    South Africa, what an anomaly. Two worlds apart living within the same borders. Most world bodies even differ on whether to label it a developed or developing nation. Most things are unequal here, and as such require different strategies to rectify the distortions in the nations history. Those in the know-how, those that are worldly, those advantaged, those exposed, those that have acquired top notch education and career opportunities should use their wisdom and intelligence to understand that the literacy approach SA has taken is obviously to address inconsistencies in the past, and to uplift the overwhelming masses to eventually make up the bulk of the middle class and to fit into and eventually participate in the world economy. The arguments against this system instituted leads one to understand that SA is in its infancy stages of understanding what equality and justice for all is. An understanding now developed nations acquired within the last century. Step outside of your common environment, and ask any knowledgable 'visitor' to the beautiful country of South Africa to see my point. The next generation will get it, even if most of this generation doesn't. To deny this, is to be in denial.

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