Key Points:

  • Mathematics outcomes in South Africa are amongst the worst in the world. One of the key factors limiting the quality of mathematics education is the poor quality of our teachers, especially numeracy and mathematics teaching at lower grade levels.
  • In 2011, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that South African learners have the lowest performance among all 21 middle-income countries that participated.
  • Various indicators on school performance and teaching reveal poor mathematics teaching in the majority of public schools. Poor teaching competencies and with them learner outcomes will thus not be remedied quickly.
  • A recent CDE report, Extra Maths in South Africa – a short summary of an exploratory investigation, found that enrolments in additional private mathematics classes were rapidly increasing, partly in response to poor teaching in public school. Such supplementary efforts fail to address the wide deficiencies in mathematics education.
  • Vast improvements in public school mathematics education are critical to South Africa’s future socioeconomic prospects, for learners as well as national development. Fundamental reforms are needed in the public sector to overturn our poor mathematics outcomes.
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