A class act - mathematics as filter of equity in South Africa's schools
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This article explores the way that educational disadvantage and opportunity became manifest in the South African school system by tracking performance in the gateway subject of Mathematics (and to a lesser extent Physical Science). Previous research by the author showed how it was possible to use a proxy method to track redress in the absence of official data on group. For the school data from 1999 language was used as a proxy for ethnicity, and in this way it was possible to quantify both group and gender disparities. Group data collection was introduced from 2002 that now made further analysis possible. This article now completes the study by taking the discussion down to the level of the individual schools. It is shown that African students who do not take an African language alongside Mathematics are by and large attending elite schools that charge high fees. In this way social class differentiation based on the ability of parents to pay is taking place in the African community. This article is set in the context of the larger debate concerning the deviations between the principles and realities of education change in post-apartheid South Africa. It poses further questions on classroom reality that speak to the theme of this special issue.