South Africa has the worst maths and science teaching in the world.

South Africa has the worst maths and science teaching in the world.

South Africa has the worst maths and science teaching in the world.

Education in South Africa
Education in South Africa - Worst out of 144 countries
Of 144 countries included in the report, South Africa came last.

The report, released on Monday, placed South Africa 140th for the quality of its education system, 117th for schools' internet access, and 133rd for primary school education quality.

According to Sapa, South Africa was 93rd with regards to tertiary education enrolment rate (gross percentage), 118th for primary school education enrolment (net percentage), and 133rd for the business costs of violence and crime. On the WEF's global competitive index, South Africa ranked 56th out of the 144 countries.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said in a statement that the figures were "heart-breaking". Spokesperson for education, Annette Lovemore, said, "We are not giving our children a fair chance at success in life if we are not providing them with proper educational opportunities.

"All types of artisan and every category of engineer are now imported; we are simply not producing these skills through our own education system."

The DA called for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to act on findings of a report into matric exams, which she commissioned and which recommended that mathematics be made compulsory.

The commission was set up to look into media reports and research criticising the national senior certificate pass requirements. The Basic Education Department was urged to increase the minimal pass rate, which currently stands at 30%.

The department merely said it was studying the report.

The report added that if maths were to be made compulsory, it would have to phased in over several years in order to avoid a decline in enrolments in subjects related to science, while a national campaign should be run to educate people about the value of mathematical literacy and mathematics.

Motshekga's further announcements relating to the report are expected soon.

Meanwhile, Africa Check reported that South Africa has reacted angrily to the report's findings, and that the anger might be justified.

According to the fact-checking site, there are two major problems regarding the WEF's ranking: First, there were no standardised tests carried out to assess maths and science quality in the countries that made up the survey, and, second, the ranking depended on the WEF's annual "Executive Opinion Survey", which makes use of interviews with unidentified leaders in business.

What the latter means is that about 50 South African business people had to assess the quality of maths and science education in South Africa, ranking it from excellent to poor. Their rankings were then weighted according to the sector in which the individuals worked. Africa Check claims the weighting is arbitrarily based on estimated contributions the business sector made to South Africa's GDP in agriculture, manufacturing, non-manufacturing, and services.

According to Stellenbosch University economics department researcher Martin Gustafsson, who spoke with Africa Check, the report did not offer any valuable insight into the quality of maths and science education in South Africa.

He said, "There is valuable data in the report. For things like business confidence it is useful. But you can’t apply opinions to things like education. It is like asking business experts what they think the HIV rate is."

In other words, the education rankings in the WEF report are merely a reflection of the personal opinions of a small group of people in a topic they are not experts in.

For an accurate ranking of education systems, Africa Check said a standardised test and representative sample of students to take the test needed to be carried out in every country.

The Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) represents the most current and comprehensive date on educational performance in countries in Africa. Its most recent research - carried out in the last quarter of 2007 - places South Africa's average student mathematics score eighth out of 15 countries. The consortium forming part of SACMEQ includes Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, and Zambia scored lower than South Africa on SACMEQ, but were placed higher on the WEF's ranking.

Africa Check says, however, this does not mean that South Africa's education system is not without its issues: A University of Stellenbosch study published in 2012 found that, although 71% of children in grade six were functionally literate, only 58.6% were functionally numerate. Furthermore, the basic education department's own assessments from 2013 found that only 3% of grade nine pupils had received over 50% in mathematics.

In conclusion, the Basic Education Department is correct in saying the WEF's report offers no real insight into the education system of different countries, but it was clear according to other studies that it was still in need of fixing.

Keywords - South Africa, Education, Annette Lovemore, Basic Education Department, Minister Angie Motshekga, WEF, maths and science, schools, worst, Africa, Angie Motshekga

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