Stats SA has released its Educational Enrolment and Achievement report, pointing to a drastic change in the level of education between pupils who had recently left the education system and their parents.
According to the report 45.2% of young people currently aged 20-34 had completed secondary schooling compared to 17.9% of their parents who had achieved the same level of education.
The report also found that 70% of people currently aged 20-34 who had completed secondary schooling were first-generation high-school graduates.
Similarly, just over 70% of those who completed post-secondary education were first-generation post-high school qualification holders.
However, despite an increase in qualifications, the data still showed that the higher the parent’s education level, the more likely the children are to achieve “upward educational mobility”.
Among children aged 20-34 who had completed a post-secondary educational qualification, 51% had parents with some or completed secondary schooling, and 19% had parents with some or completed primary schooling.
The report also noted that the same families tend to constitute the most educated group from one generation to the next.
Stats SA highlighted this problem in the educational system – which is set to promote learners solely on merit, based on achievements in examinations and tests.
Economists refer to this as the “under-education trap”, as some families remain unskilled from one generation to the next. As a result, children with the required support, which includes better-educated parents, would pass these examinations and tests; hence, they would be better off compared to children with less educated parents.
The report believes this can be addressed by a “fair education system” that would provide a path to upward mobility for these poorer families.
“The South African education system is neither completely closed nor completely open to the poor, but the results in this report show that past structural inequality is still at play in educational mobility,” the report concludes.