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South Africa’s high university dropout rates

What is behind it?

Education in South Africa is in a state of crisis, with matric pass rates plummeting, tertiary institutions in turmoil and serious teaching skills shortages thick on the ground.  Findings on a recent report by the Global Campaign for Education ranked the quality of South African schools at 50 out of 156 developing economies. Unless the quality and shortfalls in South Africa’s tertiary education system are properly addressed, skills shortages will continue to place a serious strain on economic growth and South Africa will be left behind by other developing economies.  Students seem to be fighting a never-ending battle in their quest for knowledge: with universities unable to distribute enough funding, partial bursaries proving insufficient and lack of pertinent advice and guidance regarding courses and subjects, it’s no wonder that many students give up and drop out in their first year of study. 

According to recent information released by Higher Education SA (HESA), a Section 21 company representing all 23 public universities and technikons in South Africa, the dropout rate has escalated alarmingly in recent years, and is hitting highs of up of up to 35% at some universities, with the bulk of those leaving being first-year students.  The Human Sciences Research Council’s recent study of about 34 000 students showed that of this amount, only 14 000 students graduated, with some 20 000 dropping out of their courses, most of them being either in their first year or midway through their second year of study.

There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon, with two major factors topping the list:

Lack of information 
It has been found that in the final year of high-school students are not provided with the advice, information and guidance required in order for them to make conscious and holistic choices of possible areas and subjects of study and concrete pathways to these – this can become a very costly mistake, both in terms of ‘wasting’ time and finances, as well as students then losing interest in their tertiary studies and dropping out.  Says Ronen Aires, CEO of Student Village, a social networking and information portal:  “Yes, teachers first need to be educated as to what options are available to their students, and how to guide students with an aptitude for a particular area of study into the correct course, tertiary institution and career options.  BUT – it’s also up to students to start being more proactive, and more assertive about what they enjoy doing, what they envision themselves doing, and how they would like to see their future careers unfold. 

Lack of finance
There’s no doubt that tertiary education is a costly business – students can expect to pay between R15 000 and R25 000 per year for most undergraduate degrees and even more for specialised or professional degrees such as law and medicine.  South Africa’s current state of economic turmoil, interest rate hikes and skyrocketing inflation all contribute to the sad fact that many potentially successful students will never, by virtue of socio-economic factors, be able to see their educational dreams come to fruition and the desired letters behind their names. 

A recent study by The Human Sciences Research Council revealed that many students enrolled at South African tertiary institutions are from extremely poor homes – with a paltry combined household income of between R400 and R1 600 per month – and so land up taking on part-time jobs to try and meet both their educational and daily survival obligations, with their studies invariably being affected and them ultimately dropping out altogether.  It stands to reason that, without proper education, these people will then not be able to contribute positively to the future growth of the economy and – in all likelihood, they will become a liability, rather than an asset, to South Africa.  One of the run-off effects of potential students not obtaining comprehensive enough information regarding their study options is that many of them are also misinformed, or uninformed, of the financial side of their study commitments.  Says Zivana Jenkinson, general marketing manager of Eduloan, a financial services provider: “Some students apply for partial bursaries and then find themselves stuck with additional costs they can’t afford, such as textbook, accommodation and food costs – that’s when they drop out.  In fact, even those students who are aware of bursary providers are unaware of the processes and requirements involved in order to satisfy the criteria for a bursary, and many eligible students slip through the administrative cracks and miss out on starting or completing their studies.” 

Another factor is that some students, who are unable to finance their studies and are unaware of the bursary and subsidy schemes available, then try to work fulltime and study concurrently, which places huge stress on them and detracts from proper focus on their education.  It’s clear that students also need to be educated about finances and financial management.

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who have zero intention of studying when they arrive at uni? They usually resort to barbarian tactics just before exam time so that they end up not having to write exams and get another year for free.

higher education institutions are mandated by DOE to have an 80% pass rate… i kid you not!! viva lower standards!!!

The current government f..d up the education system. Thats what is behind the high drop out rate. The previous model C schools that were giving some sort of education have been dragged down to the level of Bantu education.

Rather than lift the impoverished schools into the functioning Model C system, the government chose to radically overhaul the curriculum, dumbing it down. Failed to retrain the teachers.

Now the idea of Outcomes Based eduction seems sound, except OBE is not even remotely outcomes based. It is its antithesis. It is continuous assessment. If you are not up to grade when you are tested at that arbitrary point in the school year, then sorry, you are effed!

How do we fix it? Bring back the old syllabus, HG, SG, LG and Functional (Yes my school offered functional math!).

Get rid of this bonus marks for race bull.

Make schools rates free, department pays lights & water and teachers salaries only.

The students and their families must maintain the facilities themselves.

If there are no facilities. Govt should supply buildings, and chalkboards the first time. Thereafter NOTHING. School burned down? TOUGH! Don’t burn your own effing school down.

Textbooks, and exercise books and pens? Those are for the students account. Getting govt involved in these things results in theft and corruption.

When did tertiary eduction become expected? I had to work my A** off to get into university, I never got bonus marks, or minority anything. I came from a working class neighborhood, where kids didn’t wear school shoes until high school because they couldn’t afford them.

Once I got to varsity (the first person in my family to do so) I had to work my A*** off even more, since I was competing with all those private school kids who had cars and didn’t blink to buy textbooks I had to read in the library.

I worked most of the way through varsity, and I still came out with a hefty debt. Then I had to find a job, with less than great marks (had to work you see), competing against the polo crowd on the one hand, and AA ONLY on the other.

Getting a tertiary education is HARD, it is a PRIVILEGE. Kids need to know that they need to work for it. It’s not automatic and it is not easy. Grow up!

pass one, pass all.

Mr Jimmy Manyi will be very pleased. And all of a sudden SA will feature in the top 1 of countries with high university qualification rates.

Pity that productivity is totally phuqu-ed.

But then, which African understands productivity (except of the kind which results in an increase in births after horizontal or more adventurous positions of coitus between m anf) ?

What many people dont realise is that school and university are two totally different things! I am a currnet 1st year student. My marks at univerity are actually much better than at high school!

The truth is that at school students are spoon fed and at university no one cares about you! At school if you fail your test your teacher phones your parenst, at university the faculty deregister you from the course! Many students think that now they got good marks at high shool they willl sail at university. Students need to wake up to this reality!

Another problem is the new education system where the arguably 3 most important subjest standerds are dropping! Some people argue that the subjects are more practical but I disagree. In English students were previuosly forced to write a 800 word essay. Now they write a 350 word essay with a little summary!

In maths they have literally halved the trigonometry section! Students are struggling with maths at Varsity Really. he government need to catch a wake up and realise they are ruining the students and creating a bunch of dimwitted students

1) Students can get an interest-free student loan from the government that covers tuition and living costs. If you fail, the loan becomes due with interest. Otherwise, once you complete your studies, you start paying back the loan after six months.

2) Parents can open an RESP (Registered Educational Savings Plan) for each of their children. Whatever you contribute to the plan earns tax-free income, and you get some matching earnings from the government. You can invest the plan’s funds any way you like, so you can be less or more risky to suit your finances. Once your child starts university (school is free), you can draw on the RESP as you need it. You can open plan as soon as a child is born, so you have 16-18 years in which to amass sufficient funds for university.

And then there are the job and unisa at the same time crowd. I take my hat off to them and duh, i had it easy(bursary) followed by 4 years indentured “slavery” to fullfill its terms:>]

just hand the degrees out to anyone who wants them

saves everyone a lot of effort

saves the govt (and the taxpayer) a lot of money

julius malema and his ilk will be delighted! another victory for the people!

P.S. start saving to pay for foreign education for your kids……

In 2006 less than 1% of black matriculants (i.e. those who actually PASSED their matric) were functionally literate in mathematics – only 0,8% had an A, B or C for this subject. The rest of the “learners” are quite frankly not tertiary education material – regardless which course they intend to enroll in. SA needs to focus on proper maths skills if we ever want to become anything but a sad joke.

It helps us live with a system that will not function or change.

it was called articles.
After on-the-job training (articles of clerkship) during the day sat down with my Unisa books at night. Fact is, doing the “practicle” during the day was as instructive as the lectures (study guides).
In my humble opinion, even without taking the finances into account, there should be far more apprenticeship/articled/indentured training, especially in SA where our greatest shortage is for bricklayers not architects, bookkeepers not accountants, etc.
Higher education is a hunger – one never ceases one’s learning and continuing professional education; it is not something that can be given. It is a responsiblity not a right.

I do not think the answer is that easy:
So , Mike, in Canada, the government gives students loans..What % pay those loans back? ( I know the answer having lived there!)
When i approached Nedbank a year ago for a student loan for my orphaned niece, the terms were ridiculous. i.e. R40 000, i must start paying INTEREST on the total IMMEDIATELY, at PRIME RATE. You can guess what i told them to do with their loan
They also said the loan money is for tuition and books only (like GET REAL).
Conclusion= we will remain a backwater until those banks get more reasonable.
Oh, lastly Cassandra, you are a disgusting racist with your comments. I have worked in Canada, UK,Ireland, Caribbean….with people of all races..You need to do some travelling.

Maybe because idiots don’t belong in varsity. Too much politics in varsity and too litte study perhaps.. EISH!

The whole school system is rotten. The govt based everything on maximizing pass rates instead of sound didactics and pedagogics. Result, illiterate, inumerate people with worthless qualifications. Reducing the trigonometry by 50% is a joke. Trig was always one of the easier math branches anyway. If a student can’t pass trig, they dont belong in high school. SA must go back to basics, as in the old Model C schools. The govt must forget about inflating black pass rates! Its a futile exercise in self-delusionary ego boosting. Lets at least know that those who pass are reasonably proficient. Although many blacks will fail, in the long run they will slowly improve and the country will benefit. Of course, this honest policy will give the lie to blaming apartheid forever. I doubt the ANC can stand to see that though. However, ensuring a supply of well-educated engineers, scientists, accountants etc is surely more important than bluffing themselves?

When the ANC decided to call pupils and students “learners” I had a bad feeling. The ANC actually thinks that changes like that will produce better results. They have a weird concept of what a “solution” to a problem is. For eg – how do you get an 80% pass rate? Answer : simply instruct the schools to meet the target – how simple is that – the genius of it is staggering – how come the World’s Educators haven’t seen the light yet? The ANC has a passion for “African solutions for African problems” – as if an understanding of Maths being a requirement for tertiary study is somehow different for an African than for a non African. The stupidity of the ANC is so powerful it could move mountains.

Look at the correlation between Matric marks and attaining a degree. If the average Matric grade for those attaining a degree is much higher than the Matric grade required for acceptance to university, then the University drop-out rate will be unacceptably high. Set the bar high enough to enter University and the drop-out rate will become less pronounced.

Be reasonable: we need a dumbed-down population or they would kick the ANC bums out.
Tough that school and tertiary drop-outs are collateral damage.

before they can start a serious degree (medicine, vet science, engineering, commerce, etc). This is the uni’s way of sifting out the school leavers who scored a uni exemption but would not have got beyond grade 11 in the old, evil, high standards system

“…dragged down to the level of bantu education.”
Just remember who it was that introduced bantu education in the first place.

Whats behind it.

Quite simple bad economic times BUT MAINLY DUE TO THE HIGHER NUMBER OF MAMPARAS GETTING INTO VARSITY WITHOUT THE NECCESSARY GREY MATTER

Why should universities pay any attention to the matric exams of “learners”? The standard is inconsistent over time and learners’ subject choice and situation. Why not simply use entrance exams to university tailored to test the chance of success on the specific course. All applicants are then subjected to the same test, and the test is appropriate. As space is available on the course, only the highest ranked individuals are then admitted.

I DO TAKE NOTE ABOUT THE POOR EDUCATION SYSTEMS .I WILL COME WITH SUGGESTIONS RATHER THAN COMPLAINTS WHICH i URGE ALL TO FOCUS ON FIRST THE PARENTS MUST BE INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION AND OUT -GROW THIS BLAME PLACING. IF ALL OF US WE CAN START TO GO ALL OUT TO TALK AND MONITOR EACH AND EVERY STEP OF THE WELL BEING OF OUR CHILDREN WE WILL BE ABLE TO GUIDE ,ADVICE AND BE ABLE TO INFLUENCE OUR CHILDREN’S DECISIONS NOW MAJORITY OF US WE LOOSE OUR LEADERSHIP /PARENTAL SKILLS AND START TO BE HANDS OFF TO GUIDE OR EVEN PLAN IN TIME WITH OUR CHILDREN. SO MOST OF THE TIME THE CHILDREN ARE LESS PRAPERED FOR THEIR TERTIARY LEVEL WHICH MUST START AS EARLY AS GRADE 8 AND BE FINALLY REVIEWED AT GRADE 10 SO THEY JUST GRAB ANYTHING WHICH IS NOT THAT HE/SHE REALLY IS CAPABLE OR INTENT TO BE HIS/HER CAREER PATH.THE PARENTS NEVER SET AND COUNSELLED WITH THE CHILD. THE EDUCATION PROFESSIONALS INCLUDING CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST MUST ALSO GO BACK TO THE BASICS AND ADVICE US PROPERLY ABOUT OUR CHILDERN CAPABILITIES ,STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES .IF ALSO DISCIPLINE CAN BE INTERSIFIED CONSITANTLY BY PARENTS I THINK THINGS WILL CHANGE TO OUR ADVANTAGE.IF MAJORITY OF US WERE EDUCATED FROM BANTU EDUCATION BUT HERE WE ARE WE ARE MAKING MEANINGFUL IMPACT TO THE SOCIATIES AND COUNTRY AS WHOLE WHY THEN NOW WE CANT EXCEL?

It is my view that we ought to get the basics right. Educational skill is built on reading, writing and arithmatics. All other learning spread from this. But even more salient than these is the ability to imagine and to be creative. Consider the following quote from Robert A. Heinlein in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, buthcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, pitch manure, solve equations, analyze a new problem, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Because the black African is phuking stupid and needs a lower % , much lower % to get to do the same as a white who needs brain power as he has a white skin , he or her as a white person need to get top dollar marks.

The lower brain power of Africans need the bee , beee , aa .

The result is a much smaller % pass ratio of brain power because they the AFRICANS ARE DISADVANTEGED .

THEY THE BLACKS ARE BORN LIKE THAT .

YET WHEN WHITES WANT TO HELP THEM WE ARE A RACIST GROUP ..

WHAT HAVE THE BLACKS EVER DONE TO HELP THE WHITES IN HISTORY .

THE BLACK PEOPLE , RACE HAVENT HELPED OUR WHITE PEOPLE .

WHAT CAN THE BLACK RACE TEACH THE WHITES .

NOTHING , THEY CAN TEACH US NOTHING .

YET THEY TEACH US WHITES NOTHING BUT CALL US WHITES RACIST BUT WE TEACH THEM .

WHAT A SAVAGE RACE .

BLACKS HAVE LOW IQ .

SO HENCE DROP OUT RATIO IN BLACKS IS HIGH .

PITY, BEE, BEEE , AA LOW IQ WILL NOT HELP THATS WHY THE DROP OUT RATIO IN BLACKS IS SO VERY , VERY , VERY BAD , IN THE REAL WORLD THE ANC WILL HELP YOU LIKE MELEMA WHO IS BRAIN DEAD AND ZUMA WHO HAS STD 6. EDUCATION .

BLACK MEANS NO BRAINS IN THE REAL WORLD , ASK MELEMA AND ZUMA .

HOW BLACK AND PROUD THEY ARE .

Some of these comments constitute hate speech. The host of this site should be wary of what is being posted here.

concerned south african

many first years enter the gates of university with the mentality that they are no grown and can make they own dicisionsz . this in turn end up with them making friends with senior students. who have been aronud the block and know the in’s and out’s. u miss a couple then all your classs

i really think that droping out that far is very futile and student should try by all means have no crisis during that time because that decreases our economic growth and that the whole reason we sitting with a high unemployment rate. we really shoul do somethimg about it!!!

I’m a female student at the University of Zululand and i have a very huge problem, I’ve failed to register for this year 2010 due to the problems with NSFAS. I real do want to proceed with my studies since this is my final year please people help me out i only need 5900.00 or 4275.00 only PLZ GOD WILL BLESS YOU.

FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO HELP PLZ CONTACT ME AT THIS NO:0848367333

People I really need your help. Is there anyone out there that can help me? I’m a female student at the University of the Western Cape and struggle with money to pay my studies…Please I want to be sucsessfull and achieved my dreams. I want to help my parents, cause I’m from a poor community and their monthly income is nothing to talk about, please, please I really need your help.Thank you!

Im a female student at univesity of Witwatersrand and last year i was doing BSc computer science but unfortunately i dropped out because i couldnt get any sponsor during the ,my results are good.This year i was hoping that i will get nfsas but i didnt so i couldnt register ,i really want to continue with my studies next, as im trying so hard to apply for many bursaries.so please if you know any company that offers bursaries in computer science pls email them to me at 418728@students.wits.ac.za or if you have any form of hel i will apretiate it,and you wont regret it

End of comments.

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