What parents really think about local schools and the quality of education in South Africa

Ipsos, in collaboration with the Varkey Foundation, has released its annual Global Parents survey, looking at parents’ perceptions of education and the schools they send their children to.

Parents were polled on what they think of schools, what their priorities would be for education, and how well they think their children are prepared for 2030.

The survey asked almost 27,500 parents in 29 countries across the world – including South Africa – with the data weighted by age, gender and region.

“Parents’ confidence in the quality of teaching at their children’s schools is high globally, with 78% rating it good or very good. However, when parents were asked about the quality of free-to-attend schools in their country in general, they were far less confident with only 45% of parents surveyed rating them as good,” the report said.

However, the results also show that there is only a tenuous link between how good parents think their child’s education is, and the actual education outcomes, as measured by the PISA international educational rankings.

For example, parents in South Korea (43%) and Japan (60%) have the lowest confidence in the quality of their child’s education – but the two countries actually excel in the PISA rankings.

Other findings were that parents’ biggest concerns about their children’s futures globally remain bread and butter issues – 42% listed getting a job and having a successful career among their top three anxieties for their child’s future.

Money and the cost of living was the second biggest concern (34%).

Far fewer parents were concerned about global threats such as terrorism (16%) or climate change (14%).

South Africa

While globally parents remain upbeat about their children’s education – perceptions are particularly negative in South Africa.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of South African parents think standards of education have got worse in the last 10 years – higher than any other country surveyed.

It was also the highest ranked country when it came to parents who believed that the education system was set to deteriorate further over the next 10 years (50%).

In addition, more than half (54%) of South African parents rate free-to-attend schools as fairly poor or very poor – a rate higher than any other country surveyed apart from Uganda (66%).

Anxiety for the future 

The ability to get a job and have a successful career was the biggest concern for South African parents (50%), in line with international trends.

More surprising is that South Africans are the least concerned of all the countries polled about health/disease when it comes to their children’s future, with only 11% listing it as among their top three anxieties.

However, after almost a quarter of a century after the fall of apartheid, 34% of South African parents list discrimination and inequality as among their top three concerns about their child’s future, the highest of any country surveyed after South Korea (35%).

In addition, 39% of South African parents are concerned about peer pressure and attitudes towards drugs, drinking and sex – the second highest of any country surveyed after Kenya (44%).

Crime (43%) and peer pressure (39%) were also notably higher factors than other countries.

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