Cape Town - More than two million South African adults cannot read or write.
The latest annual Global Education Monitoring (Gem) Report by Unesco showed that there remained major challenges in South Africa achieving global education targets.
“Only 45% of adolescents complete upper secondary education, 94% of children complete primary education, and 83% complete lower secondary education. The quality of education in South Africa is suffering. Only 34% of students achieve at least a minimum proficiency level in mathematics at the end of lower secondary education,” the report said.
Unesco director-general Irina Bokova said education is a shared responsibility between governments, schools, parents, teachers and the private sector.
“Accountability for these responsibilities defines the way teachers teach, students learn, and governments act. It must be designed with care and with the principles of equity, inclusion and quality in mind.”
The report echoed Bokova’s sentiments and emphasised that accountability started with governments.
“The South African government has two particularly important accountability measures in place that are critical elements in a good education accountability system.
"Firstly, they publish a national education monitoring report, something that only just over half of countries around the world can say, and which is critical for transparency over how well it is rolling out its education plan.
"Secondly, the right to education is justiciable in South Africa, meaning that citizens can take the government to court for right violations. This is only true in 55% of countries. South Africa’s Constitution and 1996 Schools Act recognises the right to education, making education compulsory for all children aged 7 to 15 and requiring special needs education to be available to all children with disabilities."
Director of the Gem Report, Manos Antoninis said: “Accountability must start with governments. If a government is too quick to apportion blame to others, it is deflecting attention away from its own responsibility of creating a strong, supportive education system.”
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Wits University Professor Ruksana Osman said the major challenge facing the South African education system pertains to educational success.
“While we have educational access to schooling, many students who enter school do not complete 12 years of schooling, resulting in significant dropout, which is a loss on investment in early years of schooling.
“The second major challenge is the unevenness in the provision of good quality education for all, particularly children from poor households.”
Osman added that not reaching the global education goal would have an impact on the country’s development.
“It will affect the country’s development in terms of economic development but also people in the country not reaching their full potential and participating fully as active citizens in our country.”
She said it would take a multi-pronged approached to fix the current education system.
“Some of the solutions lie in greater and better investment in early childhood education - starting early and then ensuring that children are able to stay in school for the full 12 years, ensuring a good quality of education and ensuring greater levels of support from government for teachers and teaching.”