Key Points:

  • Mathematics and science performance in school are vital to higher education, skilled jobs, and the national economy.
  • 90% of our schools are still failing to meet the minimum performance standards in mathematics and science education.
  • The most serious waste in 2008 was the 35 495 candidates who wrote mathematical literacy but who could have passed mathematics with at least 50% instead. The results suggest that the top 40% of all National Senior Certificate (NSC) candidates should take mathematics, and the rest mathematical literacy.
  • Had a campaign been launched to encourage learners to take science in Grades 10, 11 and 12, approximately 40 000 extra learners could pass science at the 50% level in the medium term.
  • The distribution of higher grade mathematics and science passes across schools remains highly unequal, and wastes national resources. If additional resources were devoted to the second quintile of schools, the mathematics and science performance in South Africa’s public schools could be significantly improved.