South African education system needs improvement, a new study shows

South African education system performed poorly in the 2016 PIRLS rankings that tested grade 4 reading literacy. The study was able to show what is ailing the education system in the country.

A new study from Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which is conducted every five years is shedding new light on the South African education system. The comparative study involves 60 countries and which South Africa has taken part in this study since 2006 and has been a member since then.

Study on the South African education system

The study involves testing grade 4 students on their reading literacy levels. Data from 2006, 2011 and 2016 had shown the performance of South African students as disappointing and the data was not improving. The data raised questions on the South African education system given the huge allocation of the national budget to the education sector.

However, a new analysis from the data taken in 2011 and 2016 is shedding more light on a new perspective that had not been examined. The data showed that South Africa was the third most improved country in the rankings just behind Morocco and Oman. This was great news for the South African education system.

The improvement could not be pinpointed to one particular factor. More research needed to be done on how to improve the South African education system.

Socia-economic factor

New data from a report published in 2017 was able to highlight how socio-economic affected the quality of education in the country. The report showed that the education system was quantified in quantiles with quantile 1 being the poorest. Quantile 4 and 5 were the most affluent.

The data showed that grade 4 students from quantile one and two performed poorly compared to their counterparts from quantile three, four and five. This highlighted the inequality in the South African education system which has been masked for a long time.

Investing in the education system would help improve the score of students in the upcoming study from PIRLS in 2021. In 2016, the South African score was 320 out of a possible 500, ranking it among the lowest in countries that participated during that year.


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