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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

'SA maths, science ‘worst in the world’

South Africa has the worst maths and science teaching in the world according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) global competitiveness report.

The country came last, 144th out of 144 countries, for maths and science teaching, according to the report released on Monday. It placed 140th for the quality of its education system, 117th for internet access in schools, and 133rd for quality of primary education.

South Africa placed 93rd for tertiary education enrolment rate (as gross percentage), 118th for primary education enrolment rate (net percentage), and 133rd for business costs of crime and violence.

South Africa was 56th out of 144 countries on the WEF's global competitive index. The Democratic Alliance said the “heart-breaking” figures confirmed South Africa’s maths, science, and teaching were in crisis.

“We are not giving our children a fair chance at success in life if we are not providing them with proper educational opportunities,” DA education spokeswoman Annette Lovemore said in a statement.

“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 wanted Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to act on the findings of a report she commissioned regarding matric exams. On August 3, the department said Motshekga would take into consideration recommendations made about the current matric pass mark.

Motshekga had tasked a team of experts to examine media reports and research that criticised the national senior certificate pass requirements. The department was urged to increase the minimal pass rate, currently 30 percent.

“The ministerial task team has submitted the report and we are studying it,” the department said.

According to the 188-page report it was recommended that the department consider making mathematics a compulsory subject. If maths were made compulsory, it would have to be phased in over a few years, to avoid a decline in overall enrolments in science-related subjects.

A national campaign to educate people about the value of mathematical literacy and mathematics was suggested. Motshekga was expected to make further announcements, relating to the report, in due course.

'SA maths, science ‘worst in the world’