24 March 2020

 

How access to advanced education can lead to an accountable society

Education is fundamental to individual development and inseparable from individual freedom and empowerment. Basic knowledge of reading and writing has the potential to transform lives, fuel ambition and improve an individual’s socio-economic stance. Afterall, late President Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – a quote that still rings true amidst the South African educational landscape.

Yet, access to advanced education is lacking in provinces outside Gauteng, Western Cape and Free State. According to the Social Progress Index (SPI) 2019, a component that aligns to the fourth goal of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, education is not where it should be. The Index seeks to highlight aspects of inclusive and equitable quality education and suggests approaches to help promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

What’s more, the SPI represents a significant milestone for the global movement to accelerate social progress. Progress, which is based on a comprehensive and universally accepted view of the country. It demonstrates the criticality of empowering citizens to reach their full potential.

In Limpopo, for instance, only 89.9% of persons over age 20 are literate. Gauteng (7.51%) and Western Cape (5.04%) also boast the lowest percentage of 18-29-year-olds that are still in school, suggesting that these provinces are more efficient than the others at graduating learners through the basic education system.

Confirming this is the latest National Senior Certificate results released earlier this month. Free State had the highest matric pass rate at 88.4%, followed by Gauteng (87.2%), North West (86.8%), Western Cape (82.3%), KwaZulu-Natal (81.3%), Mpumalanga (80.3%), Northern Cape (76.5%), Eastern Cape (76.5%), and finally, Limpopo with 73.2%.

The most concerning detail to note, however is the number of full-time pupils who qualified for entry to study a degree. Of the 504 303 pupils who wrote the exam only 36.9% qualified to pursue further education. When assessing Access to Advanced Education, we find Limpopo again at the bottom of the scorecard, followed by the Northern Cape in eighth place, whereas Gauteng and the Western Cape rank first and second.

The reality? Freedom to access and exchange information is essential for an efficient, open, and accountable society. Granted, not all who qualify for advanced education decide to pursue the opportunity, a choice which is in itself fundamental to advancing society and individual opportunity.

Adam Craker, IQbusiness CEO explains, “Educational and research institutions provide benefits beyond simply educating individuals. They are conveners and contribute to solving global and local problems through innovation. It is also important to measure equity within higher education – ensuring that access is available to all, including to women and people of all socioeconomic levels.”

While access has increased, the transition from basic to advanced education remains a challenge. Those operating in various industries need to consider the socio-economic impact this might have on business. Taking chances on eager, young minds could, after all, ensure continued innovation and keep businesses from going stale. Upskilling, providing bursaries to matric graduated candidates or yearly internships should, therefore, be a focus for organisations. Not only will it lead to personal and business growth, it also has the potential to positively kickstart socio-economic change for the country as a whole.