Wednesday, January 19, 2011

F for failure

Educational standards in Africa’s biggest and most advanced economy remain generally dire. Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, black pupils still generally fare much worse than their white counterparts. Barely one in ten South African pupils qualifies for university, and only 5% end up with a degree. South Africa does particularly badly in maths and science, coming last (out of 48 countries) in a report published in 2003 by a Dutch institute called “Trends in International Maths and Science”, a study of Grade 9 pupils (aged 15). It withdrew from the 2007 series.

In 2009 just over half of black matric candidates passed, compared with 99% of whites, 92% of Indians and 76% of coloureds (people of mixed race). Though blacks now account for nearly half of all university students (and 80% of the whole population), less than one in 20 of the relevant black age group, still facing harsh economic and social disadvantages, ends up with a degree, compared with almost half of all whites.

Even though public schooling was desegregated in 1994, the vast majority of poor black children continue to go to severely deprived, overwhelmingly black schools. Two-thirds of state schools have no library or computer; 90% have no science laboratory; more than half of all pupils either have no text books or have to share them. Whites, by contrast, together with a small but growing contingent from the black middle class, send their children to the former all-white “Model C” state schools, with their far superior facilities, or, increasingly, to a private school. Since 1994 the number of pupils attending independent schools has more than doubled to around 500,000 (4% of the total school population); six out of ten are black. Tuition fees, over a quarter subsidised by the state, range from a modest 1,600 rand ($230) to a hefty 80,000 rand a year. Many parents think it worth it. Class sizes are generally half those in state schools, the teachers are better qualified and the success rate a lot higher. More than 90% of private-school pupils can expect to get their matric, compared with just 30% of state-school pupils. The former Model C schools boast a similar success rate.

Angie Motshekga, the schools minister, admits that the system is largely “in crisis” and will take 20 years to fix. Others fear it may need longer.

from here

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