Fewer pupils dropping out of school, but inequality persists: Stats SA

Fewer South Africans are dropping out of school, according to Stats SA's Education and Labour Market Outcomes in SA report.
Fewer South Africans are dropping out of school, according to Stats SA's Education and Labour Market Outcomes in SA report.
Image: 123rf/Dusanka Visnjican

Fewer pupils are dropping out of school now compared to previous years, but black South Africans continue to lag behind when it come to obtaining tertiary qualifications. 

There are some of the findings contained in Statistics South Africa's Education and Labour Market Outcomes in SA report, which was released on Tuesday.

The study compares three generations of South African adults, focussing on their highest educational attainment and achievements in the labour market.

Generations studied in the report were:

  • Generation-X adults born between 1960 and 1979, who were aged 39 to 58 in 2018;
  • Millennials born between 1980 and 1999, who were aged 19 to 38 in 2018; and
  • Born-frees born in 1994 or later, who were 24 or younger in 2018. 

“The largest educational gains among black Africans and coloureds were in the increase in the percentage of individuals who completed secondary schooling - from 24.1% amongst Generation-X black Africans to 36.7% amongst black African Millennials, and from 25.1% amongst Generation-X coloureds to 39.2% amongst coloured Millennials,” the study revealed.

“These three generations were shaped by important political changes in South Africa, which affected the choices they made in their educational and labour-market participation."

The study revealed that more Indians and/or Asians were completing school, with 53.0% of Indian/Asian Millennials achieving such qualifications, compared to 45.9% from Generation X.

However, inequalities by population group in the achievement of tertiary qualifications persist across generations, the study found.

“The percentage of black African and coloured Millennials who hold a tertiary qualification was lower (11.0% and 9.4% respectively) compared to whites (41.3%) and Indians/Asians (28.5%)."

Funding was considered the biggest reason for the lack of tertiary education for Millenials and Generation X.

For women, family obligations also played a factor, with 14% of females not attending because of family commitments and only 0.8% of males giving the same reason.

For others, qualifying for entry into tertiary studies proved to be difficult. 

"Poor performance ranked higher amongst males (19.2%) than females (13.6%) as a reason for non-attendance."

The study found that political transformation in South Africa had yielded changes in educational policies, leading to a rise in the average levels of educational attainment.

"However, there were large disparities in educational achievement between population groups. The lower and middle end of the distribution of educational attainment were lifted up substantially, while the increase in post-school educational attainment remained moderate."