NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 20, 2010

South Africa spends a bigger share of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education than any other country on the continent. Yet its results are among the worst.  Fifteen years after apartheid was buried, black children continue to receive an education that is vastly inferior to most of their white peers.  Instead of ending inequality, as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) promised, the country's schools are perpetuating it, says the Economist. 

For Graeme Bloch, an education expert at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, his country's education system is a "national disaster":

  • Around 80 percent of schools are "dysfunctional."
  • Half of all pupils drop out before taking their final "matric" exams.
  • Only 15 percent get good enough marks to get into university.
  • Of those who do get in, barely half end up with a degree.
  • South Africa regularly comes bottom or near the bottom in international literacy, numeracy and science tests.

According to a study of first-year students by Higher Education South Africa, the universities' representative body:

  • Only half the 2009 intake to be proficient in "academic literacy" and barely a quarter in "quantitative literacy," while no more than 7 percent were deemed to have the necessary mathematics skills.
  • Of the one in four who took matric math in 2008, only 39 percent passed (despite a lowly pass mark of just 30 percent), compared with 98 percent of whites; 28 percent of whites achieved a score of at least 80 percent, compared with just 2 percent of blacks. 
  • Not surprisingly, the same story is repeated at tertiary level; just one in ten black pupils qualifies for university, compared with more than half of their white peers. 
  • Whites, who account for 9 percent  of the population, gained 42 percent of the degrees awarded in 2007, almost exactly the same proportion as blacks, who are nearly ten times more numerous.

 Source: Report, "No one gets prizes," The Economist, January 14, 2010. 

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