South Africa Ranks Worst in World on Math Schooling, WEF Says

South Africa was ranked last out of 148 countries by the World Economic Forum on the quality of its math and science education, undermining the growth potential of the continent’s second-largest economy.

The Geneva-based organization put South Africa behind poorer nations including Liberia, Ghana and Rwanda. South Africa was ahead of only Yemen and Libya on an index measuring the quality of its total education system, according to the WEF Global Information Technology report released yesterday.

“All economic growth boils down to productivity,” Mike Schussler, chief economist at research group, said by phone from Johannesburg. “It’s a worrisome factor because you can only produce and earn income at a high level if you have a good quality education.”

South Africa, which is battling to cut a 25 percent jobless rate, spends a fifth of its national budget on education, the government’s biggest expenditure item. About 60 percent of this year’s 254 billion rand ($24 billion) spending on schooling is earmarked to pay salaries.

While final-year school results have improved over the years, the education system has been undermined by teachers’ lack of skills and high absenteeism.

The Department of Basic Education rejected the WEF results, saying the survey is based on the opinions of selected executives.

“The WEF report does not base its research on any actual tests or assessments done by learners, they do not in any way interact with learners in the system or any credible education institutions to get their data,” the department said in a statement on its website.

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