Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

SA ranks its maths and science second last in the world

A previous version of this article incorrectly reported on the statistics provided. We apologise for the inaccuracy.

The Global Information Technology Report 2013 added that South Africa's costly access to information and communication technologies (ICT) is hampering its competitiveness.

"Going up two positions, South Africa is in 70th place. Despite a sharp improvement in the development of its ICT infrastructure (59th) – notably in terms of international Internet bandwidth capacity (66th) – and a strong uptake by the business community (33rd), the ICT impacts (92nd), particularly the social ones (112th), remain limited.

"The perception of a lack of clear government vision (105th) to orchestrate and implement a holistic ICT strategy for the country, coupled with deficiencies in the educational system for some segments of the population (102nd), play negatively in this process and outweigh a rather positive political and regulatory framework for ICT development (21st) and pro-business environment (55th)," the report read.

It is the latest indictment on South Africa's education system since the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literature Study (Pirls) which indicated that most South African grade five learners have not yet acquired basic literacy skills.

Motshekga's maths and science task team
"Forty-three percent of South African grade five learners failed to reach the lowest international benchmark, in contrast to 5% of grade four learners internationally. This means that they have not yet mastered the basic reading skills required to access and retrieve information for reading comprehension purposes," the Pirls report stated.

It further revealed that about 90% of the grade four learners tested in English or Afrikaans attained the lowest international benchmark, while between 24% and 57% of children writing in all nine official languages did not achieve it.

Learners tested in Sepedi and Tshivenda achieved the lowest results, according to the study.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance's basic education spokesperson, Annette Lovemore, called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to announce the terms of reference of the recently established special task team on maths and science.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate.

Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

Related stories


Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

Limpopo teachers put fingers in primary schoolchildren’s underwear, SAHRC hears

The Human Rights Commission in Limpopo is hosting hearings into bullying, corporal punishment and the sexual abuse of learners by teachers in the province

‘We must not allow scavengers to eat the energy sector’

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said the transition to renewable energy cannot be an overnight accomplishment.

Finding an HIV vaccine: Five lessons from the search for...

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that vaccine development and testing timelines can be shrunk from decades to months, but not without shortcomings

Pandemic leaves 1.4 billion learners worldwide behind on education

Human Rights Watch warns that learners may take years to recover from the damage caused by school closures

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…