South Africa ICT Skills shortage starts in Matric

High School Students With Raised Hands in Class

The South African Matric results for 2013 have been recently published and they are not painting as rosy a picture as the overall pass rate would lead us to believe.

When you look deeper at the subjects that are seen as feeder subjects for careers in IT; namely Maths and Science; there are far less people registering for these subjects. In other words; while the results may be better – a higher pass rate – the amount of students who are eligible to register for a BSc degree is drastically diminished.

The following table looks at the number of students registered for maths and science in 2009 and compares them to those registered in 2013.

[ultimatetables 5 /]

This shows a drastic reduction in the number of maths and science pupils – to the tune of approximately 20% each. That translates to 20% less students who will be choosing a career in the ICT industry. The ramifications of this are dire as South Africa cannot compete with other emerging markets who are breaking new ground in the ICT industry on a regular basis.

There are also many other industries that rely on students being literate in maths and science. These range from actuarial science and engineering through to data analytics and accounting. In essence, it can be said that a county’s entire foundation is built on the quality of maths and science Matric graduates.

In 2013; The World Economic Forum ranked South Africa last on the quality of maths and science, in a survey of 62 countries. This is a country-wide problem and not just one confined to the ICT industry. Steps need to be taken now in order to ensure that within the next 10 years South Africa can move back to a leading position within ICT.

While great strides have been made in order to provide better education to more South Africans; there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure students are excited and encouraged to pursue careers in ICT. Projects such as the [tooltip title=”” content=”Square Kilometre Array” type=”classic” ]SKA[/tooltip] are vital in generating some of this excitement; which needs to be instilled at a young age. It is largely fruitless to encourage a grade 10 pupil that they should be interested in maths and science as by then it is almost too late. The encouragement and foundations need to be laid in the earlier grades to ensure that the development of an appetite for maths and science is a voracious one!

Let us know in the comments field your thoughts around this important topic of discussion.

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  • There are many aspects to this problem.
    1.To understand maths and science you need to comprehend. In order to comprehend and “get the context” you need to have a good grasp of the language in which maths and science is being taught primarily English. Many of our teachers are not competent in English.
    2.We work with people who have ADHD. Generally they are super bright but because of comprehension issues and not getting the context they are labelled stupid and told not to do maths. Yet, we keep hearing from them “I hated maths until I got this teacher …. now I love it”.
    3. Schools are under enormous pressure to increase the pass rate so they encourage the children to do maths literacy instead of solving the literacy and teaching issues.
    4. We have a lost generation of parents who are unable to communicate with their children and help them. They live in appalling circumstances that are not conducive to learning.
    5.Many teachers in well to do schools are computer illiterate. Even worse some of them don’t believe ICT is for girls. I approached a well known girls high school about partnering with them to run a web development conference. The response was “no there won’t be the interest from the girls”. The IT staff was keen but management wasn’t.

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