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|
|28||United States (joint)|