SA still has one of worst education systems in world – Gavin Davis

DA wants to know why Motshekga is celebrating when the country came last out of all African countries

TIMSS: Why is Motshekga celebrating?

29 November 2016

The 2015 Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) released today reveals that South Africa still has one of the worst education systems in the world.

The 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. We did not participate in Grade 4 science.

To make matters worse, these results are likely to be inflated because, for reasons that are not yet clear, the Grade 4 tests were done by Grade 5 learners in South Africa and Grade 8 tests were done by Grade 9 learners.

It is therefore disappointing that, despite the sobering picture presented by TIMSS, Minister Motshekga is popping the champagne corks.

In a statement today, Minister Motshekga triumphantly said that the TIMSS results showed that South Africa is the “most improved education system in the world.”

Minister Motshekga went on to say “we are proud to be a leading African participant among 59 countries participating in the various TIMSS 2015 tests.” But the fact is that South Africa came last out of all African countries, behind Botswana, Egypt and Morocco.

Spinning the results in this way is dishonest. Our modest improvement has come about because we have come off a very low base:


Maths rank

Science rank








Last (264)



Did not participate

Did not participate


Second last



Second last


Coming close to the bottom in the world in the 2015 TIMSS - with a score far below the world average -- is hardly cause for celebration.

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.

Overall, the results show that there is a vast gulf between our learners and learners in other countries, with South Africa again being ranked near the bottom of the global rankings. They also show a huge gap in our own education system with learners at no-fee schools performing particularly badly.

It is no coincidence that the three lowest performing provinces -- North West, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape -- are three of the provinces found by the Ministerial 'Jobs for Cash' report to have been captured by the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU).

In these provinces, SADTU is able to operate with impunity. Teachers who are late for school or absent are not held to account, efforts to implement competency tests are blocked and union meetings are arranged during school hours. Taking our education system back from SADTU is the first step towards changing things for the better for local school students.

In the longer term, we need to fix our system of teacher training. Every study shows that the quality of our teaching is just not good enough in our poorly performing schools. Too many teachers are emerging from our universities without the necessary practical skills to deliver the curriculum effectively.

We again call on Minister Motshekga to outline what she plans to do to break SADTU’s stranglehold on the education system, and what is being done to radically overhaul the quality of teacher training and development.

Issued by Gavin Davis, DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, 29 November 2016