High School Dropout Rate in South Africa

Dropping out of school is a global problem.  Since the global society is increasingly being driven by technology, school completion becomes an economic as well as a social problem.  National global competitiveness means that the best students in a nation are not competing against the second-best graduates but against the world’s best graduates for jobs.

According to the Voice of America, since the 1990’s, education has been required for all South Africans from age seven to fifteen. The South African government announced that seventy percent of students passed their final examination to finish high school. In 2008 the passage rate was about sixty-three percent. There have been increases each year since then.

Professor Shireen Motala at the University of Johannesburg says access to basic education is no longer the problem in South Africa. She says most children stay in school until they are about sixteen. The problem now, she says, is that large numbers of them leave without completing high school. Students take an examination known as the matric in grade twelve, their final or “matriculation” year. Professor Motala notes that less than half the children who started school in 2000 sat for the matric last year.

South Africa has a twenty-four percent unemployment rate. Those who drop out must compete with better-educated people for jobs. Educational researchers also point to another problem. They say South African schools do not produce enough students with the skills for higher education in math and science.

Many schools in South Africa, like much of the rest of the world are underfunded. According to one source, 92 percent of the schools do not have libraries. In addition, teachers and school principals do not have the skills or training to do their jobs.  Subjects such as math and science are taught in English starting at about age ten. But South Africa has eleven official languages and many more unofficial ones.