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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Globally, education at various levels is probably one of the most-fastest-growing sectors. It’s not surprising as more countries have discovered and are discovering that education is appropriate and skills are an important prerequisite to having a more-productive workforce, which in turn gives rise, obviously, to rising productivity, which in turn results in economic growth and ultimately development. The whole question of investing in human capital is broadening these days. Few people would dispute the benefits of education. Naturally and not surprisingly, the level of and the quality of education does differ from region to region and, indeed, from country to country.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds So, whilst one would expect that, in developed countries, the majority people do compete a full, as we would call, high school education and go on to some form of tertiary education, we do not find the same in Africa. Things are improving in Africa. But, as a very basic measure of what’s happened in education in Africa, today round about 65% of adults in Africa are literate. That means that just over 1/3 are not literate. By contrast, globally close to 85% of adults are literate. So whilst we are improving in Africa, there’s still lots of work to be done. The general level in Africa, only about 5% of those people aged 19 to 24 are enrolled in tertiary studies.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds Elsewhere in the world beyond Africa, the ratio might be as high as 30%. In South Africa, we’re all aware of and could have a long conversation about our woes in education. Before we do that, let’s look at some basic figures and take it from there. So, for instance, between the year 2002 and 2013 the level of education of the adult population– that’s 20 and above– increased. Back in 2002, a very large proportion– right around about 11%– of adults had no schooling whatsoever. That proportion has since dropped to just over 5%. Back in 2002, only about 20% of adults had matriculated beyond. That ratio is now approaching 40%. That level of thinking, we have seen some improvements.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds The Millennium Development Goals aimed for universal primary education by 2015. In South Africa, we’ve virtually reached that goal. At a secondary level, the number of learners in this country enrolled in secondary education has increased rapidly in the last 25 years. And these are some good things. This is some progress. At the same time, there are huge disappointments. One of those– not the only one– is the fact that so many young South Africans go as far as Grade 10, more than a million a couple of years ago. But of that more than a million, only about 580,000 end up enrolling in Grade 12. So within two years there’s a drop out of more than 400,000.

Skip to 3 minutes and 29 seconds Then, I think we’re all aware of concerns about the so-called pass rate of Grade 12. It’s not all that challenging to pass Grade 12. You could get 30% in some subjects and still get a matriculation certificate or a senior certificate. We could also pose questions about the quality of education. And there are vast chasms in quality in South Africa. Some schools compare with the best in the world. Unfortunately, many others are not fending all that well. In regular tests on numeracy and literacy– these are standardized tests covering many countries– you’ll that South African pupils don’t fare well at all. They might not come stone last, but they certainly are among the lower-performing pupils or learners in these various disciplines.

Skip to 4 minutes and 22 seconds A concern– and this links up with some of our earlier demographic topics and even unemployment topics– is the growing number of this acronym NEETs– N-double E-T-S, young people aged 18 to 24 who are not in employment, not in education, not in training. So it’s people aged 18 to 24 who are not employed, not in education, not in training. In 2009, South Africa had 2.7 million of these NEETs. in 2011 an estimated 3.2 million NEETs. Once again, what is a NEET? A certain age– 18 to 24– not in employment, not in education, not in training. 3.2 million– that’s a huge proportion. One wonders how they’re getting by. What do they do with themselves all day long?

Skip to 5 minutes and 16 seconds And this links up with our earlier point made, and that is that youth unemployment in South Africa is exceptionally high. At least 50% of young people are officially unemployed. So regarding education in South Africa, we have a mixed kind of verdict. That means some numerical improvements. More people are going to school. But there are growing concerns about the quality and the relevance of that education. A very important aspect is indeed that those are not relevant educations. It’s pointless– I’m going to keep to keep the example so as not to offend anybody– having a master’s degree in medieval architecture if the world out there– the world of work– doesn’t require a master’s in medieval architecture.

Skip to 6 minutes and 3 seconds In this new world in which we are living and facing, it’s all about adapting and adopting your skills and education to what the market wants– hence, by the way, the well-known notion of life-long learning. As we discovering all over the world, learning never stops regardless of age, regardless of qualifications. You have to continuously adapt to what the market wants.


In this video we will discuss how education and skills are a prerequisite for productivity and growth.

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This video is from the free online course:

Futurism and Business: Dealing with Complexity

University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development