The majority of South African learners feel that education is improving, and that greater choice among more subjects is the leading improvement in education since 1976. This according to consumer insights company Pondering Panda’s annual Youth Day Survey, which interviewed 1816 learners, between the ages of 13 and 24, across South Africa.
The survey, now in its second year, found that, with the origins of Youth Day in mind, education was widely seen to be getting better, with almost 4 in 5 learners (79%) feeling it was improving. The single biggest improvement was seen to be the ability of learners to choose between many different subjects, with 37% of respondents citing this as the facet of education that had improved most for them. Learners also saw more schools in their area (13%) and better quality teachers (12%) as significant improvements.
In addition to what has improved in education, learners were also asked to identify the biggest problems at their school and what they would most like to see improved upon in the future. South African learners continued to feel that alcohol and drugs was the most significant problem in schools. The survey found that 23% of learners identified alcohol and drugs as the biggest problem at their school, compared to 26% who held the same opinion last year. Other significant problems were found to be a lack of adequate facilities (14%), bullying and peer pressure (12%) and a lack of safety (10%).
When it came to what learners would like to see improved upon most at their school, the survey found that safety was the most important area for improvement, with 19% of learners identifying it as such. Once again, safer schools remained the most desired improvement compared to 2013. A significant number of learners also wanted improvements to infrastructure and facilities (17%), the number of schools in their area (15%), teacher quality (14%) and textbook delivery (13%).
Opinion on this question differed by province. Learners in the Western Cape were the most likely to see improvements in school safety as their highest priority, with 32% saying they would like to see this improved on most. In contrast, learners in Limpopo most wanted textbook delivery to be improved, with 25% wanting this, compared to 14% who most wanted safety to be improved at their school. Similarly, 24% of learners in Mpumalanga saw facilities and infrastructure as the most important area for improvement, compared to 14% who wanted a safer school first and foremost.
73% of South African learners described their education as the most important thing in their lives. This opinion was consistent across all demographic groups.
Shirley Eadie, spokesperson for Pondering Panda said, “With the origins of Youth Day in mind, learners in SA offer a relatively positive slant on the current state of education in SA. However, the results of this survey also highlight the obstacles to the education of our youth. With drugs and alcohol as well as overall school safety cited as some of the key concerns amongst learners, there is work to be done – not just by government, but also by communities – to help make sure that young people can learn without having to fear for their safety and wellbeing. In our ongoing studies amongst SA youth, learners show a very real desire for education. Our task now is to learn from these conversations with learners to better provide an enhanced environment for education, enabling them to flourish.”
Interviews were carried out both on cellphones and online between the 5th and the 10th of June, across South Africa, excluding deep rural areas. Responses were weighted to be nationally representative in terms of age, gender and race. Pondering Panda conducts surveys via a variety of digital media, including the Mxit social network and Panel Services Africa’s (PSA) online panel. PSA uses responsive surveys (accessible via mobile phones, computers and tablets) to conduct interviews with their panel and respondents are incentivised for each survey they complete. On Mxit, interviews are conducted through an interactive app on mobile phones. The app is available for both feature phones and smartphones, and is accessible on more than 3000 different mobile handsets. Respondents opt-in to surveys voluntarily and are not incentivised.
Johan van der Merwe