The WEF Global Information Technology Report 2013 listed South Africa at number 143 of 144 countries on quality of mathematics and physical science. We are also ranked number 140 on the quality of education system. The implication is that South Africa will lag behind on the use of Technology to drive economic growth.
Parents have sought solace in the private schools. The fees at private schools, including the “corporate” ones owned by JSE-listed companies, are among the highest in the world, ranging from R40 000 to as much as R160 000 a year for a Grade 12 pupil.
The financial report (December 2013) shows that Curro schools have experienced an 80% revenue growth from 2012 to R659 128 million. The Curro schools has grown from 5 777, 12 473, 21 027and 26 463 leaners for years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. At Wits, a maximum of 10 or 11 students specialised in science education annually, and for post-graduate certificates “four students is a good year”. Who is going to teach our children mathematics and science.
Even with sterling results from growth of private schools. Overall growth of mathematics and science has been pedestrian according to The TIMSS study, which tests grade 8 Mathematics and Science. The proportion of pupils taking mathematics and science has fallen from 56 per cent to 45 per cent, as more pupils opt for the easier maths literacy.
The average Grade Nine pupil in KwaZulu-Natal was 2,5 years’ worth of learning behind the average Grade Nine pupil in the Western Cape for Science, and that the average Grade Nine pupil in the Eastern Cape is 1,8 years’ worth of learning behind the average pupil in Gauteng according to TIMSS (2011).
Some of the startling fact is that most South African children are performing significantly below the curriculum, often failing to acquire functional numeracy and literacy skills. Secondly, deficiencies in mathematics and science become so big that learners cannot study in higher grades.
The solution would be early interventions, diagnose and correct these learning deficits. The problem is partly finding suitable educators for mathematics and science.