SA maths teaching among world's worst

2012-11-01 11:15

Johannesburg - The quality of South Africa's maths and science education has been ranked last in a survey of 62 countries by the World Economic Forum.

The report ranked South Africa 54th when it came to gross tertiary enrolment - behind India, but ahead of Morocco, Ghana, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The country placed 28th overall, and was the top-ranked sub-Saharan African country.

The forum's annual financial development report, which links human capital to economic development, was released on Monday. Together with taxes, infrastructure, and the costs of doing business, human capital contributes to a supportive business environment.

South Africa's non-banking financial services, such as mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings (IPO), insurance and securitisation, were ranked 22nd, and financial stability 17th - a "slight improvement".

"These changes were driven by greater currency stabilisation (28th) and more robust IPO (26th) and securitisation activity (44th)," according to the report.

South Africa's business environment (42nd) was the country's weakest area.

Despite an efficient tax regime (16th), there was a "very weak" human capital pool (52nd) and underdeveloped infrastructure (51st).

However, there was a comparatively strong institutional environment (25th), resulting from good corporate governance mechanisms (11th) and an ability to effectively enforce contracts (19th).

In terms of financial access (36th), South Africa offered varied results, according to the report.

"On the one hand, commercial access scores (16th) are solid and improving, while retail access (41st) is relatively weak and declining."


  • ben.spreeth - 2012-11-01 11:25

    First and foremost: The teacher has to understand maths himself before he tries to teach the children. How is the training of teachers?

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-11-01 11:55

      30% pass rate is all they need to pass matric, so the training for teachers is probably easy-peasy.

      helen.robertson.9231 - 2012-11-01 12:27

      The training of the teachers is generally good, however those who are gifted in Maths usually find themselves drawn out of teaching and into careers that can feed their family. Only the dedicated few remain in the profession. Many schools have to make do with one good teacher and few average and some below average teachers. If lucky, a school will contain an excellent teacher to help the others.

      Nicholas.Spaggiari - 2012-11-01 13:51

      hahahahahahahaha... okay maybe it's not funny. But dame, what do you think is going on with the countries budget, accounts and finances. lol... must be a total mess when all of the leaders don't understand math.

      anna.turner.9237 - 2012-11-01 14:01

      Ben, I did a stint to try and teach teachers maths from disadvantaged schools....they slept in the class...only woke up when food was being dished out...!!

      thepatrickwinter - 2012-11-01 14:48

      Problem is, you get matrics writing Maths core and then teachers that have time pressures marking paper they could not pass themselves. Situation in education is dire in this country.

      jannie.devos.10 - 2012-11-01 16:45

      Ben, you've got it wrong. It's not about the training of the teachers. Fact is, to be able to teach Mathematics efficiently, you have to have at the very least a B.Sc degree. What person in his right mind with a qualification like that will enter the teaching profession and work for less than what a Lonmin mine worker earns today? The problem is much more complex than that.

      jannie.devos.10 - 2012-11-01 16:47

      @anna.turner.9237 That only goes to show - you get what you pay for, not so?

      louis.olivier.988 - 2012-11-01 17:35

      And to think that during apartheid we were in the top 4

      jacques.smit - 2012-11-01 17:54

      Hahaha just take a look at the basic math problem mistake on the cover photo of the census report...

      darren.raath.5 - 2012-11-01 19:24

      yeash! it doesnt help the youth with getting an education.they still gonna be stupid and illiterate.

      blip.noodlum - 2012-11-01 20:51

      Where did you get the ridiculous idea that during apartheid "we were in the top four"? Sucked out of your left thumb or right?

      susanna.smit.7 - 2012-11-01 23:44

      Does anyone know about Ciyavula? A great online tool to learn maths on par with the government syllabus. This online book is available in printed format on an annual basis and is kept up to date by teachers from all over South Africa who keep on contributing to Ciyavula in their SPARE TIME, mostly over weekends! Give these teachers a Bell's!

      Oraniaboer - 2012-11-02 00:42

      Hell the anc is messing up South-Africa big time. What a pity that such a beautifull country has to stoop down to the anc level.

  • anthonie.vanbosch - 2012-11-01 11:26

    We need a revolution in education. We need to look at the best systems and implement it here. It is crazy that we lack behind. Parents should stand together and hold the Government accountable. Why not start today?

      arthur.salvado - 2012-11-01 11:44

      People of this country must stand together and hold this government accountable in accordance with our constitution . Not only in education, but in all other failed areas which means everything.

      gerhardus.stefanus.5 - 2012-11-01 11:55

      Then why don't you go and do something about it. We need action not words.

      george.slade.161 - 2012-11-01 11:57

      Anthonie --Dont mention Revolution otherwise Malema will start teaching Maths --Any REVOLUTION will get his attention.

      daniel.w.gie - 2012-11-01 13:03

      you wasting your breathe ...

      mark.singh.9889 - 2012-11-01 14:03

      @arthur.salvado If parents had to make a stand against evrything thats wrong, they would not have time to do anything else...thats how much is wrong in our country

      art5SA - 2012-11-01 20:25

      SA needs a GOVT that has INTEREST in the scholars.... they need to ENTICE PUPILS to EXCEED! Not leave the running(sic) of the Dept to a COMRADE or CADRE... If that happens, the Status Quo will continue... and it will end as an "ALL FALL DOWN"!!! Time for the Govt to REPLACE the Minister of Education, both, upper and LOWER... Let Blade and Angie go live in LA LA LAND........... where they belong!!!!!

      blip.noodlum - 2012-11-01 21:00

      The best system -- according to the PISA tables which ranks the quality of global education -- is the system found in Finland. It's radically different. Every teacher -- even in primary schools -- must have an M.Ed research degree. One in five has a doctorate. Less radical, but still very high-achieving and far closer to our system is the system used in Australasia (Aus and NZ). However, it's the dreaded OBE -- outcomes-based education -- which was such a disaster when introduced here. The difference is that in Australasia they implemented it properly. There you have class sizes of 20 or fewer. There you have proper experts running professional development. There you can expect every pupil to go home to an environment with fast broadband internet and smartphones and iPods etc.

  • Clerance Lephaka - 2012-11-01 11:30

    We really don't ve gud leaders

      arthur.salvado - 2012-11-01 11:42

      Not even bad leaders anthonie. We don't have leaders. Full stop

  • john.turner.58760608 - 2012-11-01 11:34

    With the combined IQ of the Dept of Edzumacasion being less than my shoe size, what else can we expect. If the pass rate of matrics is 65% with the passmark being 30%, would be interesting to know what the pass rate would be with a passmark of 51%?

      john.turner.58760608 - 2012-11-01 11:36

      Of I forgot to mention, how many thumbs down am I going to get for being racist as I dare critise our beloved ANC government.

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 11:52

      The average SA IQ is 72. That is considered borderline mental retardation. See

      george.slade.161 - 2012-11-01 12:03

      dsparky: If the ave IQ is 72 then the ANC must averahe abt 30 if one is generous . ANCYL have UQ,s (Unintelligent Quotients )

      marli.eisern - 2012-11-01 12:08

      The pass rate should be set at 60% and bench-marked with PISA. If education is failing in the African republic you will beat Afghanistan very soon in becoming a retarded and backward country which is driven by tokoloshe culture and practices. The days of bright boys like Christiaan Barnard, Sydney Brenner, Allan Macleaod Cormack, Aaron Klug and Max Theiler are long gone. This country will not be able to produce such calibre citizens any more. Success breeds success, and if you mingle with those humanities orientated people who understand nothing about basic arithmetic, physical science and economics you as a nation will end up around a table with the Devil.(metaphor). My advise : use the money to send the youngsters to NZ/AUS, Western Europe and the USA for proper education. Once they have graduated, they can visit South Africa and decide for themselves if they want to work and live under African skies and primitive conditions in an anthropological sense.

      rob.bayliss.94 - 2012-11-01 13:42

      Commenting on various internet articles that put the average black SA IQ at around 70. Firstly IQ is not the only measure of intelligence, and tests are typically culturally it would be wrong to use the scores indiscriminantly. Having said that check how scores can be interpreted: suggesting that under 79 is borderline deficient and that under 65 is intellectually deficient. Now consider what 'an average score' of 72 really means. It reflects the central point of a population distribution, if the distribution is 'normal' 50% will be lower that 72. The mind boggles when considering how the population is distributed in the bottom half of the population...what is the 25% point? Is it less than an IQ of 60? How on earth do you educate people with such limited capacities?

  • adriaan.pieterse - 2012-11-01 11:40

    Well you didn't have to put 2 and 2 together to get to this... Education is so important why is it being put in the corner to die.

      adriaan.mostert - 2012-11-01 11:53

      Well said - the one thing that can lift us all from this mess is being overlooked. Guess Zuma spending R20 mill to defend his "honour" is more important that buying books and hiring good teachers...

      surfing.sam.9 - 2012-11-01 15:30

      With 20 million you can add an extra 111 teacher per year at R15000.00 per month. But zoomers honor is more important.

      art5SA - 2012-11-01 20:28

      Adriaan... these are FUTURE VOTES in the BANK for the ANC... they don't want them asking QUESTIONS.... Food Parcels, Promises and Social Grants are the NORM!!!!!!!

  • dino.naidoo.5 - 2012-11-01 11:41

    maybe if they employ proper math teacher's,we would not have this issue. the curriculum says that the anyone can teach maths, if you have specialist math teachers surely this improve the situation.

  • johan.jacobs.5680 - 2012-11-01 11:45

    Numerical intelligence in Sout Africa not very high.Verbal intelligence seem to be better.

      jacobs.clint - 2012-11-01 15:42

      More like verbal diarrhoea when considering our beloved cANCer politicians!

      art5SA - 2012-11-01 20:30

      Well said jacobs.... Verbal Diarrhoea is an ANC word... commonly used amongst the TOP 6.....

  • jacovniek - 2012-11-01 11:46

    As a mathematician, this really hurts... I've seen students in university not knowing the multiplication table (i.e. 4x5=?) and being unable to add up marks on a paper without grabbing a calculator, i.e. (3+4+1+2). In fact, most people don't know the answer to: 3+4*2-1.

      gerhardus.stefanus.5 - 2012-11-01 11:56

      The question is how did they get there in the first place?

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 11:58

      @gerhardus, we both know the answer to that.

  • sparks.sanders - 2012-11-01 11:47

    Don't worry we are better than Ghana, man news 24 is really uplifting today

  • brasteve.myaluze - 2012-11-01 11:51

    There are three types of people; those who can count and those who can't

      john.morreira.9 - 2012-11-01 12:23

      Shadreck, indeed there was a time, when what is now Zimbabwe did offer, excellent education.Regrettably, that along with everything else in that once prosperous country,has gone to the dogs.

      glenda.mackay.18 - 2012-11-01 15:17

      @brasteve.myaluze. No it takes a good maths teacher to get everyone to count!

  • enlightened.bowman - 2012-11-01 11:53

    we can take it or leave it, if we want acceptable pass rates, this is the benchmark, otherwise, the bunnies will say its a racist subject. Is there really some dumb nut out there that thought that pre 94 standards had been retained? If it had, we'd be naturally back to segregated schools by standard 5.

      Shadreck Nyelele - 2012-11-01 11:59

      want good marks in maths and science for your kid, zimbabwe is the solution

      art5SA - 2012-11-01 20:31

      Sad but TRUE!!!!!!!!!

  • randall.j.coetzee - 2012-11-01 11:53

    Blame it on A...a..aa... You know the rest lol.

      colin.dovey - 2012-11-01 12:37

      Start with Z... rather

      adriaan.mostert - 2012-11-01 16:03

      So we have gone from A to Z..

      art5SA - 2012-11-01 20:32

      A-Z of South Africa.... ROFLMAO!

  • wesley.bischoff - 2012-11-01 11:54

    Why would they want their voting base to have knowledge of maths and science? That would guarantee that they will think for themselves, critically, and not believe every piece of sh*t that comes out of the ANC's mouth.

  • marli.eisern - 2012-11-01 11:55

    If you want to be educated go to Western Europe and obtain your secondary and tertiary education there. You can't go wrong. Leave the African education to Africa. They will sort out their issues at their own time one day once history has been re-written by Mr. Blade the professor of Africa education and history.

      art5SA - 2012-11-01 20:34

      SO TRUE!!! BLADE, like ZUMA, are "LEGENDS IN THEIR OWN MINDS".... WTF their minds are, NO ONE KNOWS!!!

  • enlightened.bowman - 2012-11-01 11:56

    Changing and improving the system may help. Granted. But if the general attitude of the students is not up tothe task, even the Dutch system will fail to educate them.

  • george.slade.161 - 2012-11-01 11:56

    THe ANC Teach "struggle Maths" : They manage to Fleece the Public with Billions being stolen all the time : They manage pretty well with Robben Island Maths !

  • ben.louw.5 - 2012-11-01 12:02


  • lerato.ranaka.9 - 2012-11-01 12:02

    What do you expect? We have a president who never went to school, 90% of our government dont even know how to read.

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 13:59

      ...and 78% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

  • denise.wilshire - 2012-11-01 12:11

    I guess that cramming the classrooms with more students and lowering the matric pass criteria will probably improve things (sarcasm) It is no wonder that parents are working day and night to pay for extra lessons and private schools. One of our local high schools had to appoint a maths teacher through a governing body post. i.e. the State would not pay this person. Regarding the excitement over the International Stats this week, they only read a few bits to the Pres, the rest were kept secret! We need a THINKING, READING, SKILLED GOVERNMENT! Until then, we are all headed for the sewer of life! Sack Angie and get someone skilled into that seat fast!

  • bothabibi - 2012-11-01 12:13

    Considering who/what the majority of teachers in SA are it makes sense.

  • stephen.j.dickson.3 - 2012-11-01 12:21

    And this is why I pay thru my ass for my boys to do 'O' and 'A' levels, something that is recognised worldwide and ensures them an academic future. Screw SA Matric and all who run the Education Depts in this country.It is doomed because of them.......bottom line.

  • luke.dekoker - 2012-11-01 12:23

    The CancER crooks are to blame. If they did not replace the Well Educated teachers since 1994 with their low qualified AA & cadre deployed, this would never have been the case.

      Erna - 2012-11-01 14:11

      They gave all the good teachers retirement/retrenchment packages that they couldn't refuse, and all these teachers are now working for private schools.

  • Ze Don - 2012-11-01 12:23

    It's all Verwoerds fault remember, he made maths and science difficult... according to our old mate Sezo Mucunu anyway ;-)

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 14:02

      I just verified your statement... I am dumb-struck. How can someone be that stupid? Verwoerd made it difficult? This is funny and incredibly sad at the same time... I guess Einstein, Newton and all those guys are to blame as well. Whao!

  • dark.heroine.9 - 2012-11-01 12:35

    The parents need to be educated. They need to understand the importance of a good education, not only for their households, but for the country as well. Once they understand its importance they won't stand for the crap that the government is dishing out to their kids. They won't stand for the teachers that had no other profession that they could settle in just to get a salary, they won't settle for text books not being delivered, they won't settle for the low grade education system that we have. They will stand up against a government that does nothing but dig a deeper hole of ignorance for them. But sadly only a few understand priorities for the long term, or rather, only a few have the luxury of seeing the long term.

      denis.gomo - 2012-11-01 13:27

      @dark.heroine....good comments there. For us blacks, it must go beyond understanding the importance of a good's about active participation in your child's education, enforcing discipline, making sure homework is done...pre-marking the homework at home, attending and participating in school activities involving army barrack approach to education and discipline involving your child...When I was growing up, bad marks and a bad class position was an invitation to war and a school holiday from hell. That made me focus on my grades, just to stay out of trouble if not for anything else. The problem with us the majority of blacks in the townships and rural areas like you rightly say, is that the parents themselves are not that much educated, save for the upcoming black middle class....and we've left our children with grannies and problems with single parenting and broken homes, ill discipline etc.

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 13:48

      Love both your comments (dark.heroine.9 and denis.gomo). Education is the solution to all our problems. Apartheid robbed the majority of citizens from a decent meaningful education. What really angers me is that the not-so-new-anymore government has not made any dent in education - in fact, it worsened. Not enough schools, not enough universities, FE colleges, etc. I am not even talking about dropping standard and degrading infrastructure. This simple perpetuates the oppression of the victims of apartheid. This is the real tragedy. No change really, just new masters and "bosses".

  • ofentse.lazoz - 2012-11-01 12:39

    This is my third year teaching maths Grade 8 & 9,90% of my current class don't know/have the basic maths skills,even adding-they need a calculator e.g 17+19=? they'll need a calculator to get the answer.I have 45 learners which is a norm in our school,while i was doing my practicals in the north west,we had 58 learners in a classroom,while in other schools they had more than 70 learners in class,as we've learnt in tertiary somelearners need individual attention,so how will you recognise those that need help?/have a problem? It's tough here in Mzansi! To all educators out of South Africa,Enjoy and use your skills and produce future Quality leaders! For any queries pls send any question u may be having bout S.A's education to ,Heita daar so!

      thifulufhelwi.masala - 2012-11-01 13:00

      You ar part of the problem. You are the one who mst be corecting that not complaining.

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 13:52

      I commend you... and I have a great respect for teachers such as yourself. Keep up the good work, your are not part of the solution. You ARE the solution. My thanks to you, mam.

  • helen.robertson.9231 - 2012-11-01 12:39

    I'd like to know the reasons for the ranking. Was it the level of the work taught or the level of understanding? Was it that the curriculum did or did not go into enough depth? Who did they interview, what marks did they look at and how were the tests weighted?

  • Rob Allen - 2012-11-01 13:09

    another ANC success story whohooo!

  • kosie.nel.14 - 2012-11-01 13:25

    Very unfair to all those highly skilled, very successful maths teachers in many model C and private schools. Many parents rather spend their income on booze, cigarettes and air time instead of investing in their children's education - they send their children to the nearest free government school with unskilled teachers. These irresponsible parents deserve the present government!

  • joshua.sematla - 2012-11-01 13:51

    Where is zuma to tell them to stop talking and ranking our country down..

  • buti.lembe - 2012-11-01 14:11

    @ Nancy here I count 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 and what number comes after 9 is 10.

  • stephen.j.dickson.3 - 2012-11-01 14:41

    Go back to the days of using a slide rule and log/trig books instead of a calculator and get kids to actually calculate all the points for parabola's etc from an equation instead of just getting the basic 3 points to plot the curve by the shortcut,new maths methods. That'll go some way to sorting out some of the difficulties they have.

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 15:54

      Calculators makes your brain lazy. Fortunately, many universities still require that calculus papers be written without calculators.

  • john.morreira.9 - 2012-11-01 14:53

    What was the old war cry? "Liberation BEFORE education" or something like that. It seems that the majority of our population, still find it easier to yell,scream and froth at the mouth.Rather than, knuckle down and apply themselves to getting an education. Mind you, it is very difficult for the pupils (or should that be learners),to get any education without textbooks. to

  • glenda.mackay.18 - 2012-11-01 15:14

    This is old news! Not only do we have weak maths teachers, we have a shortage of maths teachers. Who wants to teach in a country where teachers are not respected or paid.

  • mawandewonderman.mkuba - 2012-11-01 15:24

    Guys, we're no 28th overall

      Priesterb - 2012-11-01 16:24

      And how pathetic is that!

  • timmy.ditsele - 2012-11-01 15:31

    while i was in matric '95 i went to write entry exams in wits to be admitted to uct.i have never seen or done calculs before in my life.there was a question of expanding equations eg (x+1)to the power n. now I had to do it the long way and eventually I got it right.after the exams we were given the answers complete with how one goes about solving the question.I was flabagasted to learn that the was an easier way to expand the said equation called Binomial theorem.Come monday I asked my math teacher the same question and she solved it just like she taught me,the long way,.She had no idea what Binomial theorem was at the time.Then it dawn on me that it was not her doing not to know the theorem but the system which prevented her form going all the way to her full potential.and i might just as well ad she was good at math.Its not only about teachers but good math teachers who are dedicated to not only teaching but getting this great subject to our next generationof south africa.

      jacovniek - 2012-11-01 15:57

      The Binomial theorem like Green's theorem and many others, are not part of the curriculum (it's undergrad work). It's not as serious, I think... What is serious is that many teachers do not understand the math that is part of the standard school curriculum.

  • anette.smith.16 - 2012-11-01 16:15

    Well, What do you expect. Teachers that hold a dancing diploma is teaching maths.

  • - 2012-11-01 20:03

    Not just maths... my kids got taught that Evolution has been disproved.. Teacher left rather than explain why he was teaching my kids his Sunday school mass in science class.

  • karel.dutoit.50 - 2012-11-01 20:59

    There is nothing wrong with the training of teachers. The problem is the teachers teaching math is not qualified to teach math in a number of schools There are schools where a person with only grade 10 behind his name teaches grade 12 math. The main problem is this useless way of teaching All thanks to the current government. Everyting from before 1994 must be replaced by new african ways. curriculum 2005, Outcomes based education, caps, all so called better way to teach than before 1994. The results speak for themselves. Stop blaming the teachers it's the system that is up to sh*t.

  • warwick.railton.7 - 2012-11-02 06:23

    And that my friends is how the anc came up with e-tolling, they did the math! Clowns.

  • matthew.c.white.7 - 2012-11-02 07:34

    @drsparky: I wrote (and passed) matric maths in 1957... the bionomial theorem was certainly part of the syllabus then.

      stephen.j.dickson.3 - 2012-11-02 10:46

      At 17, I did Pure and Applied maths which included calculus and advanced Trig for 'M' and 'A' level back in the then Rhodesia in 1976. All without a calculator too. The good old days of a land of intelligent,tenacious, hard working people of integrity not like the spoilt,lazy,disrespectful knuckle draggers of today.

  • beryl.knipe - 2012-11-02 09:31

    People ......... some of us already told you in 1993/1994 this would happen! Yet, none of the big brass in this country has done anything about it!

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