'Consistent improvement' in number of SA youth finishing matric, says education department
At least half the country’s youth have completed grade 12, according to an analysis of data from the general household survey compiled by Statistics SA.
This figure was provided to members of the portfolio committee on basic education on Tuesday during a presentation on pupil dropout rates.
The national education department said there was a lot of confusion in public discussions about the dropout rate, throughput rate and real matric pass rate.
“An alternative method of comparing the number of matric passes for a particular year to the 18-year-old population of the same year suggests the figure [of those passing matric] could be as high as 56%,” it said.
Departmental officials said whichever method one uses, “there has been a consistent improvement over time”.
“Females are also considerably more likely to complete grade 12 than males.”
According to the presentation, SA’s secondary school completion rate is not unusual among developing countries.
Officials said according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), upper secondary education completion rates in SA have been similar to those in middle income countries.
They said there were reasons to expect “short-term and long-term negative effects on dropout rates”.
“Some international evidence shows time out of school leads to other activities and to pregnancies which in turn could impact on dropouts.”
There was a 24% dropout rate among pupils born between 1992 and 1994 who completed grade 11.
Evidence showed a low risk of Covid-19 infections among children, and that school reopenings were not causing an unacceptable increase in the spread of the coronavirus.
“We now need to minimise further learning losses,” said the department.
“Local and international studies are predicting large and unequal losses in learning due to Covid-19 related school closures.”
The National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey is showing “unequal losses of school attendance and remote learning opportunities by socio-economic status”.
“International studies show these types of large learning losses are predictive of lifelong outcomes, including educational attainment and labour market performance.”
The weak learning foundations which were the fundamental cause of dropouts must be dealt with.
“We must protect teaching time and keep schools open as far as possible.”
The non-profit organisation Zero Dropout Campaign, which shared key research findings on dropouts with MPs, said 40% of pupils who start school in grade 1 will exit the schooling system before completing grade 12.
It said Covid-19 school closures coupled with the economic shocks of lockdown are expected to increase dropout rates.