Wednesday, 4 September 2013

South Africa's Education System Is Not The Worst In Africa

An Apartheid-era South African minister recently claimed that South Africa has the worst education system on the continent in spite of spending more per child than anyone else. Face-checking website AfricaCheck investigated and proved him wrong. South Africa's education system still has many, many problems but the research doesn't support the rather extreme claims. The article (here) also notes that the information on which this report is based is limited so Southern and East African, not even taking into account the even more troubling situation of education in some other parts of the continent.

The report is also a great overview of education stats with a focus on Southern Africa. Some startling comparisons. For example, 71.2% of South African grade six level children are literate versus 49.3% of Zambian children of the same cohort. Actually Zambia seems to have quite a lot of problems in quite a lot of areas. Also some reference to the importance of comparing similar things - if one country has 98% school enrollment at grade six level, for example, and another has 85% enrollment, is it reasonable to compare how the kids who are in school perform on standardised tests without considering the extra 13% who have dropped out, possibly because they weren't able to keep up.

Education remains a hot-button issue in Southern Africa. Reports like this (and the research on which it is based) have to be part of identifying the actual areas of concern and developing constructive strategies for fixing them, instead of ranting hysterically about how it's all bad.

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