Numerous studies show that when it comes to international education standards—particularly in terms of numerical and reading literacy—South African children continue significantly to underperform.
In order to measure just how bad this crisis is, and to find ways to counter this as children enter high school, 3 600 Grade 7 learners around the country will put their literacy skills to the test on Thursday 11 October 2018. They will be taking the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants annual Grade 7 Quiz.
‘South African children are in the midst of a literacy crisis,’ says Gugu Makhanya, SAICA’s Senior Executive: Transformation & Growth. ‘Last year, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study report that measured global literacy levels between 2011 and 2016, found that 78% of the pupils who participated in the South African leg of the study were illiterate. This placed our country last out of the 50 countries that were reviewed. Add to this the fact that the quality of the country’s maths remains among the lowest in the world, and the future knock-on effects of this crisis are immense.’
Makhanya continues: ‘After all, studies show that countries with more skilled workforces in both numerical and reading literacy terms tend to have citizens with higher pay and better employment prospects, which ultimately translates into higher rates of economic growth.’
As an institute with a vested interest in ensuring that South Africa has more citizens— especially young adults—who are numerically literate, this is a crisis that the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is tackling head-on with its various Thuthuka school projects.
Explains Makhanya: ‘SAICA, together with the accounting profession, is constantly working to help create a South Africa where every person is equipped to make informed financial decisions. As an institute with a vested interest in increasing our country’s numerical literacy, we run a number of school projects aimed at helping to remedy the problems our education system faces. Among these projects is our SAICA Grade 7 Quiz.’
This year, almost 400 learners from 20 schools will write the quiz in each of the nine provinces, for a total of approximately 3 600 participants. Written in the form of a one-hour paper, SAICA has designed the quiz in such a way that learners will not only enjoy exhibiting their numeracy and literacy abilities, but will also appreciate their importance. This is of particular value to SAICA—and it is also vital for learners to master this if they wish to pursue a scarce-skills career like chartered accountancy.
According to Makhanya, ‘in gauging the literacy levels of some 3 600 learners from the 180 schools around the country through this initiative, the results of the 2018 SAICA Grade 7 Quiz will help the organisation strategically to focus its school projects in areas that we, together with provincial departments of education, flag as problematic when it comes to numeracy and reading.’