TIMSS 2015 Grade 5 national report: understanding mathematics achievement amongst Grade 5 learners in South Africa: nurturing green shoots
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South African learners perform poorly by both local and international standards. Progress over the last twenty years has been steady, but slow, yet in 2015, when compared to other countries, only a third of Grade 9 learners in South Africa meet the minimum competency level in international assessments of mathematics and science, with just 1 per cent reaching the advanced level. Across the country mathematics achievement is both highly unequal and socially graded. But what is the current state of the education system in the early grades?
Against a policy landscape which increasingly places Early Childhood Development (ECD) at the heart of educational reform and strategies to reduce the impact of poverty and redress inequalities inherited under apartheid, this report provides baseline information regarding mathematics achievement at the Grade 5 level and is a new indicator of the health of our educational system.
Our aim is to provide the first, nationally representative, internationally comparative compendium of data on Grade 5 learners in South Africa. We take a broad look at a range of influences on achievement, including individual characteristics, family background and household resources, as well as a detailed look at schooling environments, and seek to unpack the nature of pervasive educational inequalities further, and earlier in the schooling system, than previous analysis has been able to. The findings highlight the importance of early achievement and the need to understand the multiple layers of influence on educational pathways, with the conclusions and recommendations highlighting an unequal, yet treatable system.