Key Points:

  • The South African education system is largely failing the community it is meant to serve. South African learners perform very badly in international tests of fundamental skills such as numeracy and literacy. The education system is not providing most learners with the skills they require to find jobs.
  • In the international TIMMS assessment of ability in maths and science, the best performing five per cent of South African learners scored 490 on average, below the developed country mean score of 500 points.
  • Addressing the issue of education in South Africa will require debates about how to teach, who should teach, and how to run a school. The international evidence shows that determined interventions which are properly focused and managed can lead to major improvements within a few years.
  • Reforming the South African public schooling system is not a secondary issue. Successful reform will be difficult, and will require vision, staying power, managerial competence, and political courage. South Africa’s future success requires a greatly improved schooling system.