Mixed reaction from learners to government education reform
Slightly more than half of South African learners support government plans to raise the standard for passing matric. This according to consumer insights company Pondering Panda, who conducted a survey with 1955 learners between the ages of 13 and 24, across South Africa, shortly after the government’s proposed education reforms were made public earlier this month. The survey found that, after being informed of the government’s proposals to raise standards in education, 53% of learners thought it a good idea to have higher standards by raising the bar for passing matric. In comparison, 44% felt it was a bad idea as fewer people would pass, and 3% were unsure. Reaction to this question was consistent across demographic groups.
While a bare majority of learners were supportive of higher matric standards, they were more likely to be against more stringent requirements for university entry. When asked about government proposals to raise standards for university admissions, the majority of learners (61%) were against the idea, compared to about a third (35%) who were in favour. There were no significant differences across demographic groups.
Asked to consider the overall state of education in South Africa today, almost a third of learners (32%) felt it was getting worse. In comparison, 51% believed education was improving, while 14% felt it remained unchanged. There were no significant differences of opinion across age, gender or race groups.
Shirley Eadie, spokesperson for Pondering Panda, said, “We already know that the South African basic education system has many problems, but what this study reveals is that not all learners are in favour of reform. The 30% matric pass rate just doesn’t cut it – and it is failing learners who care about the quality of their education and want to be pushed to reach a higher standard. However, not all learners want the bar raised, with some significant resistance. At the same time, learners have a strong desire to attend university or tertiary education, and see access to that as very important. It needs to be recognised that making it more difficult to gain access to universities does not appeal to the majority of learners. It is clear that learners will have to be engaged with on this topic, to avoid the potential for learner protests. With the added finding that a significant number of learners feel education is in decline, we trust that the government and SADTU will pay close attention to the attitude of learners to key aspects of education reform, before actually implementing them.”
Interviews were carried out both on cellphones and online between the 11th and the 19th of August, across South Africa, excluding deep rural areas. Responses were weighted to be nationally representative in terms of age, gender and race. Pondering Panda conducts surveys via a variety of digital media, including the Mxit social network and Panel Services Africa’s (PSA) online panel. PSA uses responsive surveys (accessible via mobile phones, computers and tablets) to conduct interviews with their panel and respondents are incentivised for each survey they complete. On Mxit, interviews are conducted through an interactive app on mobile phones. The app is available for both feature phones and smartphones, and is accessible on more than 3000 different mobile handsets. Respondents opt-in to surveys voluntarily and are not incentivised.
For interviews please contact Johan van der Merwe – 021 888 7083 / 078 668 7872