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Children sing a song as they attend assembly on their first day back at school at the start of the new academic year in Johannesburg, South Africa.
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Only 66% of South Africa Classroom Time Is Spent Teaching: Report

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Shortcomings in the education system are taking away from teaching time, resulting in poor education for learners. Global Goal 4 seeks to provide quality education for all, in an effort to end extreme poverty by 2030. Join the movement by taking action here to support the global fight to ensure every child can access a quality education.

A report by Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) has found that South African teachers only spend 66% of classroom time teaching, compared to the international average of 78%.

To look at the working conditions and the learning environment in schools, TALIS sampled around 260,000 teachers in 48 countries like Australia, Japan, Norway, the United States, and the United Kingdom, according to the Citizen.

The report indicates that overcrowding is one of the major problems faced by South African schools.

This is supported by the South African Education Journal’s 2016 investigation, which found that almost half of classrooms are over the recommended student-to-teacher ratio of 40:1 in primary schools and 35:1 in secondary schools.

The disruptive and counterproductive effect of overcrowding takes away from pupils’ learning time and results in poorer academic achievements, according to the investigation.

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Speaking at Nellmapius Secondary School in Pretoria last week, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said South Africa’s education system is improving.

“Today‚ I am not going to stand here and say it’s time to pop the champagne because our basic education is slowly and surely reclaiming its place among the economies and countries of our similar size and budget,” she said. “All I am saying is that our basic education as a system is a system on the rise.”

South Africa was the only African state to take part in the survey, and Motshekga believes that these findings are a useful benchmark to improve the education sector in the country.

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Speaking at the launch of the report on July 2, Motshekga said the full report would be widely circulated in the sector and beyond in order for the country to find ways of addressing the problems facing the education system.

Furthermore, the report said the levels of violence and intimidation in South African schools are more than double the global average.

Upon release of the report, education expert Markus Schwabe said: “34% of principals reported intimidation or bullying among students weekly.”

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In addition, 1 in 4 principals report incidents relating to possession of drugs or alcohol every week, Schwabe explained.

Just this month, the death of Daniel Bakwala brought school violence back into the spotlight. The pupil from Forest High in Johannesburg was fatally stabbed outside his school.

On the effects of school violence on students, theSouth African Journal of Education says the environment becomes not conducive to learning and there is a lack of effective learning and teaching, which then leads to poor school attendance and eventually leads to a high failure rate.

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Added to the safety problems faced by the country’s schools, the report found significant resource shortages hindering the capacity for schools to provide quality education.

Education Dive, a publication that provides original analysis on the latest happenings in the education industry, says more than one in four of South Africa’s schools are in rural areas, and one in six of the nation’s students attend a rural school.

Yet for many of these students, the lack of resources is an obstacle in achieving a brighter future.

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In Limpopo in 2018, for example, pupils reportedly fell behind in the curriculum in their respective grades after the failure of the education department to provide safe and adequate school infrastructure.

Pupils at Makangwane Secondary School were being taught under trees after part of the school’s corrugated-iron roof was ripped off during a storm.

Meanwhile, the TALIS report has also found that one in four teachers in the country have not completed tertiary education. In Johannesburg alone, some 7,000 teachers only have a grade 12 qualification.

The shortage of trained teachers, as well as poor infrastructure in schools present a significant challenge for children seeking education.

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Motshekga said the report was important because it comes from teachers themselves.

“It confirms the things that we know are in our schools, which really reinforces the message that we have to deal with them,” she said.