Yesterday the CDE released a 65-page report I wrote for them titled “South Africa’s Education Crisis: The Quality of Education in South Africa 1994-2011.” The graph above comes from the report and shows the large differences between the richest 20% of South Africa’s students and the average student in the Eastern Cape. Learning deficits grow as children move through the school system until they reach a zone of improbable progress where the possibility of passing matric is virtually non-existent. This is just one of about 10 topics that are covered in the report, some of the others are teacher content knowledge, inequality of educational opportunity, matric outcomes, youth unemployment, international rankings and policy suggestions. I include the first paragraph from the executive summary which provides an indication of the contents:
“The aim of this report is to provide an empirical overview of the quality of education in South Africa since the transition to democracy and, in doing so, comment on the state of the country’s education system. It will become increasingly clear that the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that there is an on-going crisis in South African education, and that the current system is failing the majority of South Africa’s youth. By using a variety of independently conducted assessments of pupil achievement the report shows that – with the exception of a wealthy minority – most South African pupils cannot read, write and compute at grade-appropriate levels, with large proportions being functionally illiterate and innumerate…While there have been some recent improvements in pupil outcomes, as well as some important policy innovations, the picture that emerges time and again is both dire and consistent: however one chooses to measure learner performance, and at whichever grade one chooses to test, the vast majority of South African pupils are significantly below where they should be in terms of the curriculum, and more generally, have not reached a host of normal numeracy and literacy milestones. As it stands, the South African education system is grossly inefficient, severely underperforming and egregiously unfair.”
I wrote most of it last year, finished it up earlier this year and I’m very glad that it’s finally out. I think it’s a pretty good summary of our thinking on how the quality of education in South Africa has changed between 1994 and 2011 (at least as measured by assessments). I think the one thing I would add if I had to do it again is a more formalized discussion of accountability and capacity. I’ve subsequently written a paper for the IJR which should come out in 2014 where I flesh out the relationship between the two but it would’ve been nice to include it in this report as well. You can also look at this presentation for a brief snap-shot of that research.
If you know of anyone who may find the report interesting please do pass it along to them – the more the merrier! The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, the second is correctly diagnosing its causes, and the last is correctly identifying the interventions necessary to deal with the causes and solve the problem. We’re currently at about stage 0.8.