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Decline in South African PhD graduates a major problem

South Africa’s inability to produce enough doctoral graduates to build the ‘knowledge economy’ it aspires to, or simply to replace the existing cohort of academics in the higher education system, is a challenge widely acknowledged by government departments, their agencies and universities. But fixing the problem is a lot harder.

According to Professor Johann Mouton, director of the University of Stellenbosch’s Centre for Research on Science and Technology (CREST) which has conducted a five-part study on the PhD, part of the solution lies in making more money available to doctoral students to enable them to pursue their studies full-time.

Currently about 80% of South African doctoral students are part-time and generally take far longer to complete their degrees than their European or American counterparts.

Mouton identified a string of blockages to postgraduate study:  

  • The low number of matric [school leaving examination] exemptions, and too few good passes in maths and science
  • The problem of student poverty and debt. SA produces about 100,000 bachelor graduates a year, but the majority of those need to start working immediately to pay off debt

The number of potential researchers is whittled down at each level of the system. Out of about 22,000 honours students, those pursuing masters and doctorate degrees amount to only 10,000, of which just under 1,200 (1,182 in 2008) end up graduating with a PhD.

To read more go to Sharon Dell’s article in University World News Africa Edition by Clicking Here!

Motshekga plans to overhaul the school system

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga recently briefed the media in Cape Town on plans the South African government’s human development cluster had to boost the quality of education.  She said her department was looking at rolling out scholar transport to pupils in rural areas and was in talks with the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and the National Treasury to find ways to increase the amount of funding necessary to build new schools.

She also stressed that the commitment and hard work of teachers and school governing bodies is key to making schools more successful.

Other aspects of the plan includes enrolling all children for Grade R and increasing the number of Grade 12 students who pass matric exams and who qualify for university from 105 000 to 175 00 by 2014.

The Department also plans to increase the number of Grade 12 students who pass maths and science exams from 165 000 to 225 000 by 2014 and to double the number of learners in Grade 3, 6 and 9 in public schools who obtain the minimum acceptable marks.

Agreement has also been reached with with unions to reduce the number of strike hours. The administrative burden of continuous task assessment has been reduced too.

Learning and teaching packs for Grade R teachers, containing lesson plans, learners’ workbooks and story books among other things, has been distributed to all 13 900 schools that offer Grade R.

The Department has also introduced an assessment for grades 3, 6 and 9 in an effort to lay a sold foundation of learning and to measure the success of interventions in literacy and numeracy.

To read more go to the Bua News article on allAfrica.com by Clicking Here!

The Great Maths Debate

The South African National Department of Education has released an article on the debate surrounding the 2008 matric mathematics results.

To read the article Click Here!