The quality of South African education has been called into question following the release this week of the ANA results.
According to the results, released by Education Minister Angie Motshekga, national average performance of grade six pupils in languages was 28% and 30% for mathematics, while national average performance of grade three pupils in literacy was 35% and in 28% for numeracy.
In addition, only 3% of South African adults has a university degree or its equivalent.
South African schools still face infrastructure backlogs such as water, sanitation, electricity, libraries and laboratories.
The World Economic Forum in May 2011 identified quality education as a key element in reducing unemployment and bridging the skills gap in many sectors.
Education Week begins on 6 July, and will focus on these and other issues.
There has been many a debate about the quality of South African education compared to the rest of the world and this is one question which keynote speakers at the event will focus on.
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) reports that the quality of our education is dismal, not only in comparison to major players such as the UK and the US, but even in comparison to other poorer nations.
Cas Prinsloo, chief research specialist at the HSRC's education research unit quotes the reasons behind this poor performance as poor teacher training, a lack of skills, poor support for pupils in their homes and shortages of educational resources.
Claire O'Connell, conference director of African Education Week, comments: "A further problem faced by South Africa is the dual nature of our education system private schooling still offers a level of education comparable to the best in the world, whilst much of the state schooling system suffers from all of the problems mentioned above.
"When asking the question 'Are we good enough?', it is the state system which needs to answer, since this is where the majority of our pupils are schooled."
According to Unicef, “education breaks the generational cycles of poverty and disease and is key to a nation's development and prosperity”. The organisation adds that the groundwork has been laid in that South Africa has adopted the approach of education for all and has integrated development and reform objectives into national policy.
The figures do seem to bear this out: in 2007/8, 5,2% of GDP was invested in primary and secondary education.
The flipside is not so rosy. O'Connell says: "In South Africa in 2007, only 3% of adults had a university degree or its equivalent, while in 19 other emerging market countries, the average was 9,2%." When looking at the world's 30 richest countries, this figure rose to 18% (source: Norwegian Council for Africa News Update).
Furthermore, a 2010 submission to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education by Equal Education found that many South African schools still face infrastructure backlogs such as water, sanitation, electricity, libraries and laboratories. The paper also comments that there is sound research to support the theory that improved access to resources leads to improved outcomes.
So it would appear that the foundation for good education in South Africa has been laid, but clearly this is not enough. What else needs to happen to render our education system competitive on the global stage?
Some ideas put forward by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in 2011 include:
* Improving teacher development
* Ensuring that every child has a text book for every subject
* Attracting young, qualified teachers into the profession
* Reducing teenage pregnancy (which leads to early school drop-out)
* Rectifying basic problems like stationery shortages
* Increasing financial controls in schools
Other issues which need to be addressed include violence in schools, non attendance due to a variety of factors (such as abuse, alcoholism and gangsterism) and inequality between male and female students.
Motshekga, is a keynote speaker at the upcoming African Education Week which will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre from 6 to 8 July 2011.