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Why South Africa's ranking 'just above Yemen' for maths and science is misleading

Free State University vice chancellor Jonathan Jansen stated in a recent opinion piece that “South Africa was dead last, or just above Yemen, at the bottom end of the international rankings” for science and mathematics.

Jansen was referring to the 2013 World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report, which ranked South Africa 143 out of 144 countries for the quality of its maths and science education.

While there is certainly reason to be concerned about the quality of maths and science education in South Africa, the ranking cited by Jansen is opinion-based and not an accurate measure of the quality of South Africa’s education system.

As Africa Check has reported before, ratings like this are not based on standardised  international tests. Rather, the ranking Jansen referred to was the result of a survey of South African “business leaders”. The respondents were asked to rank the quality of maths and science education from 1 (poor) to 7 (“excellent – among the best in the world”) - Africa Check 08/01/13.

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