Government celebrates South Africa’s dismal maths and science results

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has issued a statement triumphantly celebrating the latest Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) results – in which South Africa places second worst in the world.

According to Motshekga, the cause for celebration was because the TIMSS showed that South Africa is the “most improved education system in the world”. However, this interpretation loses meaning when considering that South Africa has only climbed from worst to second-worst.

The TIMSS results show that South Africa was ranked second last out of 48 countries for Grade 4 mathematics, second last for Grade 8 mathematics and stone last for Grade 8 science out of 38 countries. The country did not participate in Grade 4 science.

However, these results are in themselves a misrepresentation, as it has been revealed that the Grade 4 tests were done by Grade 5 learners in South Africa and Grade 8 tests were done by Grade 9 learners.

Further, Motshekga said that the department was “proud to be a leading African participant among 59 countries participating in the various TIMSS 2015 tests” – despite placing last among all African countries, behind Botswana, Egypt and Morocco.

According to DA shadow minister of basic education, Gavin Davis said that the minister’s representation of the results was dishonest.

“Instead of spinning the results to cast her government in a good light, Minister Motshekga should be engaging with the results frankly and honestly with a view to drastically improving the system,” he said.

This is how South Africa has performed in the TIMSS since 1995:

Year Maths rank Science rank
1995 Last Last
1999 Last Last
2003 Last Last
2007 Did not participate Did not participate
2011 Second last Last
2015 Second last Last

Read: SA students come second last in global maths rankings

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