6 November 2007

South Africa: 'Children Dropping Out of School'

Cape Town — Although more children are attending school and tertiary institutions than ever before, at least half are dropping out of school after Grade 10.

This is one of the statistics revealed in the South Africa Survey 2006/2007, which also shows that matric pass rates have been steadily dropping in the past five years. More children across the racial groups are attending school, however.

"The number of people with no schooling dropped from 14 percent in 1998 to 10 percent in 2005. Between 1998 and 2005 improvements were recorded for all race groups with regard to the proportion of adults who have passed Grade 12. For Africans, 37,6 percent more people had Grade 12 in 2005 compared to 1998. Nonetheless only 26 percent of Africans had Grade 12 in 2005 as opposed to 30,2 percent of coloured people, 54,6 percent of Indians and 78,5 percent of whites."

This also translated to more people completing a tertiary education, where all racial groups increased, except for coloured people, where a 12,5 percent decrease was seen. This was counteracted by the worrying trend that between 2004 and 2006 half of all pupils between Grade 10 and Grade 12 had dropped out of school.

"The Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town undertook research that showed a significant drop in school attendance by 16- to 18-year-olds."

In 2005, 986 000 teenagers did not attend any educational institution. Further studies found that while the majority of African and white teenagers did attend school, only half of all coloured people and two out of three Indians aged between 16 and 20 were attending an institution of education.

"In the same report, comment was made that the drop-out rate in the coloured and Indian communities might not have been driven entirely by poverty. It seemed that among coloured people and Asians, leaving school was more of a choice than of a necessity."

Of those teenagers who did make it to Grade 12, many are failing the senior certificate. The matric pass rate declined from 68 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2006.

The university entrance pass rate declined from 17 percent to 16 percent. Pass rates in all subjects except maths and science have improved. Only 8 percent passed maths on the higher grade in 2006 and 15 percent passed higher grade physical science.

There has also been a 94 percent increase in the number of independent schools since 2005 because of a general feeling of unhappiness with the standard of public schools.

"Research has found that many independent schools charge relatively low fees and it has been speculated that the growth of the sector has come as a response from middle-class black parents not happy with education provided by the state," the survey found.

The ratio of teacher to pupils is also about half that found at government schools, and the pass rate at independent schools is much higher, with 98 percent passing Grade 12. Of those, 76 percent made the university entrance pass.

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