Tag Archives: Education

13% of Grade 2 pupils in South Africa cannot read a single word

Dr Nick Taylor - head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit
Dr Nick Taylor – head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit


Dr Nick Taylor has called South Africa’s literacy levels a national catastrophe and a disaster for the country and future economic growth. Speaking at the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) breakfast, Dr Taylor revealed some alarming statistics about the country literacy levels and appealed to government to do something about it.  Dr Nick Taylor, the head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (Needu) at the Department of Education, has has called on government to make reading a national priority.

On average a grade 2 pupils should have the capability and literacy level of reading between 60 – 70 words per minute, however research has shown that this is not the case in schools in South Africa. In addition, pupils that progress to grade 5 are continue to struggle and are falling even further behind their classmates.


Shocking Revelations

Research done by Needu has revealed some alarming and highly disturbing facts that there are students that are unable to even read a single word. Research results show that roughly 13% of pupils could read a single word from a simple test that was given to them. Grade 5 pupils on average, are reading about 80 – 90 words per minute. According to Dr Taylor the current literacy level in country are a national catastrophe and disaster.

In other report and studies undertaken by Needu has revealed that the country’s education system is failing due to the fact that teachers are unable  or qualified to teach and they did not have a rasp of the curriculum.  If teachers do not know what the curriculum is about, then how are they capable of teaching or allowed to teach. The only individuals who will suffer are the pupils themselves through no fault of their own and the chances of succeeding at school or as adults does not look promising.

The Needu research was conducted in 133 schools around the country. The question coming out of the studies and research is that if pupils are not able to read by grade 5, then the Department of Basic Education, government, and President Zuma need to answer is what are teachers doing? What is government doing about this national disaster and failure of the education system? What are school management teams and school principals doing about student assessments? Where are the parents or guardians of these children doing about their children who are unable to read?

Dr Taylor asked “How can they allow the children to be far behind after five years? Are they not watching them?”

The studies reveals that schools and teachers are devoting too much time to group reading instead of assigning more time to individual reading. Pupils also showed evidence that they are unable to succeed and struggle with comprehension tests given to them.


Scarcity of books in schools

The studies also revealed an alarming fact that the majority of foundational classes in the 133 schools lacked an efficient number of books. There were only 2 or 3 books available to read over the course of 1 year. At this level, pupils should be reading at least one or two books every week. If there are not enough books to read, how can you expect or blame the pupils for not being able to read. The government should be held directly accountable for this national sister given the fat that they are responsible for the the education of all citizens of South Africa.

Dr Taylor stated that school leaders and management should monitor student performance and has pleaded with teacher unions to address the quality of teaching.

Apart from the  Department of Education and Government, parents and guardians also need to accept part of the blame and responsibility for the literacy levels of their children and at our schools and need to get involved in their children’s education and assist them. However, it is the primary responsibility of the schools to make sure that pupils can read independently by Grade 2.

Basil Manuel, the president of Naptosa, stated that children should read anything that is available to them even if it food packaging labels on cereal boxes in order to grasp and improve their basic language skills.


Contact details:

For any comments and/or feedback, feel free to contact The Presidency or the Department of Basic Education.

President Zuma at The Presidency – CLICK HERE

Minister Angie Motshekga at Department of Basic Education – CLICK HERE


Gauteng improving the quality of learning and teaching in province

Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy
Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy


Gauteng school results continue to show improvements due to direct intervention by the Gauteng Education Department. Both the quality of learning and teaching are showing signs of improvement as a result of the innovation and hard work by the department. The MEC for education, Barbara Creecy, is confident that the strategies adopted by the department to improve the learning and teaching in the province is moving in the right direction and will improve the chances of learners succeeding at school.

Success at school will create an environment whereby pupils will have the confidence to continue with their education and succeed in their adult lives.  During the past year, the Gauteng Education Department has made numerous advances to meet it goals and objectives of creating an equitable and quality education system and will, over time, add to and contribute to a better life and living standards for people in the province.

For the fourth straight year, the Gauteng Education Department has received a financially unqualified audit with a few findings on compliance, as well as a clean audit report in the Audit of Performance Information, with no findings. Creecy is quoted as saying that the department is very proud and pleased by the clean audit report. The department continues to show improvements in service delivery thereby adding to the quality of learning and teaching in the classroom and province.

One of the main achievement of the department is the universal levels of female participants in schools over the past 5 years and is ranked amongst the highest levels globally. The department delivered education services to 2807 institutions and roughly 2.3 million learner in 2012. About 220 000 were from independent institutions including special schools. Learner enrollment has also shone sign of improvement increasing by 2.6% 2012 as compared to 2011.

Creecy said that the department is not resting and is planning to intensify the department’s delivery plans and strategies, and is very optimistic that the province will achieve better results when it comes to quality learning and teaching in the classroom.

Source: SAnews.gov.za


Lack of education is the root of SA unskilled labour force problems

Education South Africa


The root of South Africa’s problems and lack of a skilled labour force stems from the poor education system and with those given the responsibility to administer the nations education system. The main cause of unemployment, poverty and inequality in South Africa today is not  only because of the history of Apartheid but due to the bad education, lack of accountability in government and low standards of our schooling system today.

There is growing concern by businesses and universities over the failure and ability of most school pupils to pass mathematics. Given this failure and lack of will in government to address this issue is causing a skills shortage in numerous professions in the country.

It is a universally accepted principle that education is the catalyst for any economic and human growth within a society and is a fundamental human right which has a direct effect on any democracy and political stability.

Research has shown that the vast majority of South African school students are opting for mathematical literacy because they feel that they would rather opt for subject that they have a chance of passing. In the recent World Economic Forum review and study on maths and science education ranked South Africa 133 out of 142 countries overall. When it came to  maths and science education, South Africa came in at 141 ahead of Yemen in last place.

Studies have shown that the country’s education system is failing to achieve basic standards of numeracy and literacy in grades three and six. A former Wits University mathematics lecturer Lynn Bowie, was quoted as saying that, “The problems in mathematics education in South Africa do not begin at matric level. Both research and personal experience indicates that many of our learners do not get a firm foundation in mathematics at primary school and so enter high school without the skills necessary to progress in mathematics.”

The basics premise of any education system is that education is built upon what is learnt in the previous year. If pupils do not get a good foundation in mathematics is highly unlikely that these pupils will be able to succeed at higher levels as they progress through the education system.

While we can point fingers at the Education Department and lack of government will and accountability to tackle the failures in the country’s education system, we must also look at the pupils and their commitments and will to study. According to many reports and statements from teachers, who are too afraid to speak publicly to protect their jobs, blame students and parents for the lack of commitment to their education. Teachers say that pupils do just enough in class to achieve a pass mark but do not practise what they re learning and when they fail it is always the teachers who take the brunt of the blame and responsibility. Those students who take their education seriously and value the benefits of a good education do well and go on to achieve university degrees. Many teachers feel that the government lowers the education standards in order to create the impression that the pass rates are good and improving.

Education is should not a used as a political tool to gain four in the eyes of the voting public. Rather it is enshrined in the constitution as a basic right for all individuals to have access to education.

There is a feeling amongst many parents in the country that they would prefer that their children attend private schools because they feel that public school teachers do the bare minimum and lack commitment to their profession. parents understand that teachers have a preference towards private schools given the higher salaries and better work environment.

The National Planning Commission has published statistics that teachers in black schools teach on average only 3.5 hours per day as compared to 6.5 hours per day in former while schools.

Currently, in order for  student to achieve a pass mark for maths all they need is between 30 and 40 percent. This is a deeply worrying fact given that this result does not permit the student to enroll in any degree that requires mathematics at universities.

To achieve the minimum pass mark for maths, student need only to display that they have mastered only fairly routine procedures according to Lynn Bowie. “To be able to cope with the rigours of university mathematics learners would need to have demonstrated capabilities in dealing with more complex procedures and in problem-solving.”

Over the past few years, only a small fraction (less than 20 000) of the total number of students sitting for their matric exams, roughly half-a-million , are able to achieve the results in mathematics that is required by universities in order to cope the high level of mathematics required by degrees such as engineering or actuarial science.

This low standard and lack of student being able to achieve good results in mathematics is having a huge effect on the labour force and number of skilled professionals required to grow the economy.

A student, who prefers to remain anonymous, who attended ML Sultan Secondary School, a public school in Pietermaritzburg, gained entry to pursue mathematics at Wits University attributes his success to hard work and a dedicated teacher who offered extra lessons over weekends. All those participating in the group all achieved good grades in Matric. The student is of the opinion that the government and Department of Education are not serious about improving the standards of education in the country.

Upon graduation the pupil applied to education department for a job to assist mathematics pupils in Pietermaritzburg region and in return all the pupils was asking was transport money as compensation. The Department of Education has not replied to the student request.

Last year, South Africa’s expenditure on education was 6% of gross domestic product. In the 2012/13 financial year, education would account for almost R207 billion.

Statistics from the South African Institute of Race Relations show that at least 84 high schools do not offer mathematics for grades 10 to 12 last year. The Limpopo province having the highest number of school not offering mathematics. The reason for this is the lack of qualified teachers on a national basis.

The reality and research has shown that the vast majority of pupils who perform poorly in mathematics in Matric are black students which in turn rings alarm bells hen it comes to fixing inequalities in certain faculties at tertiary institutions if not impossible.

Currently all matric students undertake the same exam in mathematics if they want to pusue a career in engineering at university level or if it s basic requirement for a technically-related trade they wanted to pursue. “Our one-size-fits-all mathematics curriculum and school-leaving examination is unusual in the international context and perhaps needs to be reconsidered,” said Bowie.

The success or failure of students does not only fall on the quality of teachers and principles at schools, but also lies with parents, government commitment and accountability, and the Department of Education.


Matric students lack the skills and competencies for university

A recent study has shown that high school matric results are generally a poor indicator of 1st year university performance. In order to improve upon the performance of university students would require that the Department of Basic Education equip high school students with the required skills and competencies as outlined in the department’s policy documents. Students entering university are ill-equipped and do not possess these basic skills and competencies to succeed at university.

Michèle Stears and Angela James from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s undertook the study to identify whether or not Grade 12 life science results were any indication of their competence at first-year in relation to their knowledge and skills levels. They concluded that poor performance amongst students was not a new phenomena amongst university students in South Africa.

The study did indicate that scholars competency level in certain sub jest was poor and lower than the required level as stated in Department of Basic Education policy documents.

According o the study the lack of competencies in certain areas and skills along with failure at a university is having a debilitating effect on students live and their levels of self confidence. Student complete high school and enter tertiary institutions with high hopes and expectations only to be confronted by the reality that they did not possess the skills or competencies to succeed at university.

In the study, Michèle Stears and Angela James recommended that in order to improve on students 1st year performance results would take a two pronged approach. Firstly, high school students should be  equipped by the schools with required skills and competencies prior to graduating. Secondly, higher education institutions should assist by creating an environment that enables high school students a far better and smoother transition into higher education.

The study did take into account the  degree of transformation that has been achieved since 1994 within the education system. Matric results are one indicator to display how the South African education system has transformed and improved since the demise of apartheid.

Students that completed high school in 2010 were the first set of students who completed school based on Curriculum 2005 (one of many changes to post-apartheid school curriculum reforms). There was enormous reservation and uncertainty about the skills and competencies of scholars under an outcomes-based education orientated system.

In order to arrive at their results and conclusions, the study compared results of 1st year life sciences students in 2011 and compared these to students who registered in 2009 and 2010. Stears and James said; “learners achieving 80% to 100% in their biology school-leaving examination had the skills to suggest specific changes to experimental design and provide conclusions showing awareness of data uncertainty, and could analyse problems and provide solutions as well as evaluate the relevance of biotechnological applications to life sciences.”

From the study, student showed evidence that they could also come to the conclusion and critically evaluate the application of scientific and indigenous knowledge locally in South Africa and globally. Students  could also develop justifiable and responsible positions on the influences of different beliefs, attitudes and values in various communities, as well as evaluate and give recommendations on the impact of scientific and technological processes and products on different communities.

For those students that achieved a 60% to 79% had the ability to  “analyse, reflect on and evaluate findings of an investigation and identify and allow for irregular observations when displaying data, debate and show how concepts, principles, laws, theories and models influenced one’s behaviour, analyse the application of scientific and indigenous knowledge in the South African context and debate the influence of beliefs, attitudes and values among communities.”

Results of students who enrolled for life sciences in 2008, only 36% were able to achieve a grade higher than 70% for biology in matric. In 2009 this same figure  rose to 43% while in 2010 it went up to 53%.

The study also showed that only 21% of student in the 2011 class could link biology to the environment. When these stunted were asked to observe the environment, only 18% were able to observe green plants, 61% were not able to observe the object biology, while 54% of the students could not make a link between what they were observing and the relevance of the course they and taken.

The study states that only 10% of the class of 2008 failed the biology module. This figure dropped to 5% in 2009, however increased to 12% for student of 2010 class. This gave more clout for those people and groups who have been arguing and stating that matric results in 2010 were manipulated by the Department of Basic Education.

Source: University World News


Motshekga refuses to pay teacher salaries and ignores court verdict

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga


South Africa department of education is once again embroiled in legal battles following non payment of teacher salaries. The Department of Basic Education has ignored a court verdict to pay Eastern Cape temporary teachers. The education department is investing millions on education and trying to attract more individual into the teaching sector, however, they are not prepared to pay teachers what is due to them. What does this say about the leadership of the South African government and their commitment to eduction in South Africa.

Following the court verdict and the education department’s total disregard for the judicial system, 1000 temporary teachers are calling for their salaries to be paid in the amount of R596 million. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has conceded to the accusation against her department and admitted that the department owes millions in unpaid salaries. 70% of temporary teachers in Eastern Cape have not been paid.

Motshekga has publicly admitted that 233  teachers that were appointed in January were still owed R258 million, and a further 1217 teacher appointed in April were owed a further R337m in unpaid salaries.

Instead of following the courts verdict and respecting the judicial system of the country, Motshekga has decided to set up a special task team to help speed up the payment of teacher salaries. Even-though the courts ordered the education department to pay 27 teacher their salaries and what is due to them within 5 days, the department has ignored the court decision.

The teachers, who are represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) have confirmed that nothing has been done and no cheques have been received following the court order. The LRC have confirmed that numerous teachers have not been paid and that the education department has breached their contractual duties to pay teachers what is owed to them. The LRC is also seeking systematic relief in oder to deal with this problem.

THe LRC stated that “The latest court order is one of the many efforts by the LRC to address the widespread problem of non-payment of teachers throughout the Eastern Cape.”  The court order to pay 27 teachers was issued by the courts following an out of court agreement between LRC and the Department of education. In terms of the court order, the teachers have to option to ask the court for relief if their salaries are not paid within 7 days.

Department of Basic Education avoiding this embarrassing issue and  Panyaza Lesufi Motshekga’s spokesman, could not be reached to clarify the department stance on the court order or to answer any questions as to why the South African government if flagrantly disregarding court orders and failing to live up their contractual obligation.

The refusal of the education department to pay salaries and respect their contractual obligations is one of many legal challenges faced by the education department from pressure groups or legal entities that fight for pupils’ right to quality education. Last month, Equal Education reached an out of court settlement following the legal dispute with regard to schools norms and standards. According to the settlement, the court ordered the Education Department to publish minimum uniform norms and standards for school infrastructure for comments no later than September 12.

Last year Motshekga faced a bitter battle the NGO Section27 over it inept actions and failure to deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo. The high court eventually ordered the the department to deliver textbooks to the province. Motshekga’s recently tried to force matric exam markers to take competency test, hover, this was scrapped. I only guess for this its that the department cannot request competency test given the incompetent actions of the education department.

Perhaps students, teachers and business should lobby for government salaries to be placed on hold until such time that those individuals, groups and departments in the governments sector undertake to perform their duties and do what they were hired to do.

Given the actions (or non action) of the Education Department and South African over the past few years, it is no wonder reports issued by the Council on Higher Education condemn the education system in South Africa and see no remedies to fix the system in the foreseeable future.

Like Motshekga’s plans to institute competency exams, perhaps government employees, heads of departments, ministers and even the President should be forced to do the same and base their salaries on the results.


For comments and feedback contact:

The Presidency and Jacob Zuma – CLICK HERE or

Department of Basic Education and Minister Angie Motshekga – CLICK HERE