Posted on April 15, 2008

Majority of SA School Leavers Are Functionally Illiterate

Johann van Wyk, UP Education Library Blog, April 14, 2008

Only 1 out of 29 matriculants are functionally literate after matric, according to adv. Paul Hoffman SC, director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights of the F.W. de Klerk Foundation. [Hoffman describes functional literacy as the means to have the reading and writing skills necessary for everyday living and the workplace]. In an article on the transformation of basic education in South Africa, Hoffman refers to the alarming statistics on the functional literacy of black matriculants that went through the school system the past 12 years.

According to statistics from the literacy consultants Hough & Horne in Johannesburg only two thirds of the 1.56 million 6 year-olds that started in the school system 12 years ago, obtained grade 10. Of these 360 000 passed matric at the end of last year.

When these matriculants were tested for functional literacy in English (the language of choice for teaching), it was found that only 15% of the black candidates were functionally literate.

This means that only 42 000 black school leavers have the potential to do skilled work. When one divides this by province it means that “each province in 2007 delivered only 4600 functionally literate black matriculants”, Hoffman reiterated.

According to Hoffman this means that only 1 out of 29 (3.5%) of black children that enters the school system obtained a matric sertificate that will enable them to enter the realms of trainability, skills acquisition, higher education and employability—this in an economy where a huge shortage of skills exist. He also points out that South African schools’ drop out rate of 77% over 12 years of schooling is much higher than the UNESCO norm of 21 %. To read more go to Paul Hoffman’s article or the Afrikaans article that were published in the Beeld newspaper on 10 April 2008.

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