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Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 01/2011

A recent paper, based on new household survey data, finds that pre-final year completion rates in South African secondary schools compare well with other countries in a similar economic position, and they show a steady improvement between 2003 and 2009. In spite of this, the final year (Grade 12 or ‘Matric’) completion rate of 40% remains low by international standards, and it has not changed much since 2003. Even those learners who do pass Matric may struggle to find formal employment without further education, whilst access to such tertiary education is hampered by a general lack of core skills. This holds important implications for education policy. Simply increasing enrolment numbers will not guarantee that learners are equipped with the necessary skills to meet labour market demands. A continued focus on quality educational outcomes is required, and policymakers should avoid being seduced by headline-grabbing high enrolment numbers at the expense of quality improvements. This brief summarises the key findings based on analyses of recent household survey data, and suggests some policy implications as far as improving quality educational outcomes is concerned.