South Africa’s schoolkids rank second-to-last in the world in maths and science

South Africa’s schoolkids rank second-to-last in the world in maths and science, according to an education report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD findings, based on the test scores of 15-year-olds from 76 countries, show South Africa ranked 75th globally – beating only Ghana.

Countries which scored higher than South Africa included Honduras, Morocco, Botswana, Peru, Tunisia, Albania, and Lebanon. The top three countries were Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea, respectively.

“This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education,” said the OECD.

Notable exclusions from the top 10 were the United States and the United Kingdom, which sat at 28th and 20th, respectively.

The maths and science rankings were based on a combination of international assessments, the OECD’s PISA test, the TIMMS tests, and TERCE tests conducted in Latin America.

There is potential

Were South Africa did rank highly was in potential GDP increase if all 15-year-olds achieved a basic level of education.

According to the report, SA has the second-most potential globally, and the country’s GDP would increase by 2,624% if education levels were increased over the lifetime of those pupils.

“If you go to an Asian classroom you’ll find teachers who expect every student to succeed. There’s a lot of rigour, a lot of focus and coherence,” said the OECD.

South African maths and science teachers, by comparison, don’t have the necessary skills to teach their subjects.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor stated in February 2015 that the government has not “been able to improve the science and maths teaching in our schools, and this has created a bottleneck in the expansion of our university system and unemployment for many young people”.

“I was always worried about our poor maths and science teaching in schools,” said Pandor, who was education minister between 2004 and 2009.

Education is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run, the report said.

“Poor education policies and practices leave many countries in what amounts to a permanent state of economic recession.”

The full OECD ranking is below.

Countries ranked by maths and science
1 Singapore
2 Hong Kong
3 South Korea
4 Japan (joint)
4 Taiwan (joint)
6 Finland
7 Estonia
8 Switzerland
9 Netherlands
10 Canada
11 Poland
12 Vietnam
13 Germany
14 Australia
15 Ireland
16 Belgium
17 New Zealand
18 Slovenia
19 Austria
20 United Kingdom
21 Czech Republic
22 Denmark
23 France
24 Latvia
25 Norway
26 Luxembourg
27 Spain
28 Italy (joint)
28 United States (joint)
30 Portugal
31 Lithuania
32 Hungary
33 Iceland
34 Russia
35 Sweden
36 Croatia
37 Slovak Republic
38 Ukraine
39 Israel
40 Greece
41 Turkey
42 Serbia
43 Bulgaria
44 Romania
45 UAE
46 Cyprus
47 Thailand
48 Chile
49 Kazakhstan
50 Armenia
51 Iran
52 Malaysia
53 Costa Rica
54 Mexico
55 Uruguay
56 Montenegro
57 Bahrain
58 Lebanon
59 Georgia
60 Brazil
61 Jordan
62 Argentina
63 Albania
64 Tunisia
65 Macedonia
66 Saudi Arabia
67 Colombia
68 Qatar
69 Indonesia
70 Botswana
71 Peru
72 Oman
73 Morocco
74 Honduras
75 South Africa
76 Ghana

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South Africa’s schoolkids rank second-to-last in the world in maths and science