Indicators of performance in South Africa's public school system

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University of Cape Town

Education is the largest area of expenditure in the South African state budget. In the 2001/02 financial year, nearly R60 billion, or 22% of the total budget, was notionally allocated to education. The bulk of this budget – R44 billion in 2001/02 – is transferred to the nine provincial education departments for primary and secondary schooling. In comparison with other middleincome countries, the government’s expenditure on education, relative to both the total government budget and the GDP, is high. Yet the quality of schooling in South Africa is believed to be relatively poor. Pass rates in the matriculation examination are low, and studies comparing literacy and numeracy among students in different countries almost routinely put South Africa at the bottom of the list. The important 1999 study, Getting Learning Right (Taylor and Vinjevold, 1999), painted a sorry picture of the state of South African schooling. The national Department of Education itself, in its own documentation, acknowledges the many weaknesses of the schooling system (see, for example, Department of Education, 2000a).