TEN percent of Grade 10 and 11 pupils drop out of school.
And while the average dropout rate is 4 percent, most who drop out are in Grade 9 and up, a report by the Department of Basic Education says.
It was found the dropout rate before Grade 9 was “extremely low”, with about 1 percent of pupils leaving school in Grades 1 and 4.
From Grades 5 to 8 the dropout rate was minimal, ranging from 2 to 4 percent.
The report found that from Grade 9 up, the rate increased, reaching almost 12 percent in Grades 10 and 11.
It was also found that in 2008, 10 percent fewer pupils were enrolled in Grades 9 to 11 than had been in 2007.
The department’s Report on Dropout and Learner Retention Strategy was prepared for the portfolio committee on education.
The department had faced several challenges for years in determining the dropout rate because reliable data was not available.
The National Income Dynamics Study, a national household survey initiated by the Presidency and carried out in 2008, has proved to be a useful source for this indicator. Since the survey data was available for one year, no trend analysis could be undertaken.
The report cited a number of researchers who had found that “dropping out of schools is not a single event, but the result of a combination of inter-related factors”.
It noted that poverty alone did not explain why children were not in a school, with other reasons including disability, family structure and living in isolated communities.
It was found that financial pressures, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse combined with factors at school, including lack of stimulation and support, led to young people disengaging from their education and eventually dropping out of school.
Research had found a “strong correlation” between repetition and dropout rates.
In 2009, on average 9 percent of pupils were repeating a grade.
According to an international comparative study, South Africa’s average level of repetition in primary schools of 7 percent was higher than the 5 percent for developing countries.
For developed countries it was less than 1 percent.
The report found the incidence of repeating a year was much greater in higher grades than in lower grades.
“This occurs as a result of teachers in the higher grades trying to deal with pupils who have failed to master basic skills in primary school, but who have nonetheless progressed from grade to grade.”
The department has put in place a number of initiatives and incentives for pupils to attend school.
These include the nutrition programme, no-fee schools, the provision of workbooks and textbooks, the expansion of Grade R and the reduction of teachers’ administrative loads.
Because of high dropout and failure rates, only about 39 percent of South Africa’s youngsters obtain a National Senior Certificate.