Only 22% of students graduate

2008-08-18 16:34

Johannesburg - Only 22% of higher level students complete their undergraduate degree within the required study period, said Education Minister Naledi Pandor on Monday.

"Out of the 120 000 students who enrolled in higher education in 2000, 36 000 (3%0) dropped out in their first year of study and 24 000 more (20%) dropped out during the second and third years," said Pandor to guests at the Teaching and Learning Colloquium at Wits University, Johannesburg.

In all, only 22% of them completed their undergraduate degree within the three-year undergraduate study period.

The analysis was conducted by the department between 2000 and 2005 and the report was published in 2005, said Pandor.

"These figures form the backdrop in which teaching and learning programmes have to plan their strategies and interventions. There are several other factors that should be considered."

She said many first time entry students entered universities with very little knowledge of and familiarity with university life, processes, and demands.

Since 1994 university expansion had meant a significant growth in first generation students.

"They carry the hope of family and community, enter a new challenging environment with very little orientation and are faced with the demand that they adjust or fail," Pandor said.

She said many young people emerged from schools that had poor infrastructure, and inadequate teaching resources that did not prepare them for the epistemology and rigour of university study.

According to Pandor levels of language skills were taken for granted in South African education.

"Despite strenuous efforts by some trainers, NGOs and some universities, schools do not focus on teaching academic language competence and even proficiency and fluency in English, which is the main language of teaching and learning."

She complained about universities being "very" conservative institutions, which had remained largely the same in basic assumptions for centuries.

Specific attention needed to be given to developing a wide range of responses and programmes in order to address the multi- faceted character of the various challenges.

"Some universities are exploring a four-year degree structure and rethinking their courses in exciting ways. The first response therefore is support in a context ready to consider and accept change."

Academic development had to be integrated into university processes as part of the changed academic framework, and not as an irritant to be called on when there were failing black students, said Pandor.