The 2019 matric results showed an improved pass rate and a slight reduction in the pervasive inequalities in the system. However, quality and throughput (the number of learners reaching matric) remain significant challenges. As learners settle into a new school year, the business community must reflect on the role that it can play in strengthening the sector.

Education continues to receive the most corporate support, with 94% of companies investing in, and an average of 50% of corporate social investment (CSI) expenditure going to the sector in 2019. In the Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2019, education experts share insight on fundamental ingredients needed to reform the sector.

Quality research needed to bolster education

Well over R16 000 is spent each year to educate a South African child in a public school. The efficacy of this investment leaves much to be desired, with fewer than two out of every ten children in grade four able to read for meaning in any language.

In Supporting system improvements in education by bolstering research efforts, education economist Dr Gabrielle Wills makes the case for the value of research in informing quality improvements. Wills notes that, just like a company would conduct the necessary research to ensure that an expensive piece of equipment it intended to buy would effectively serve its purpose, so too should companies take the time to ensure that their investment into education has a solid chance of creating meaningful impact.

In addition, investment into sound monitoring systems, including data management and tracking of per-learner spending, as well as accountability processes for redress could contribute to significant savings and improved functionality across the sector.

Investment in teacher undergraduate education key

In Greater accountability for improved school performance, education expert Nick Taylor identifies weak educator knowledge and skills as a key issue impeding quality education and says that universities, government and the private sector each have an important role to play in responding to this crisis. 

Taylor believes that initial teacher education (ITE) has significant potential to produce skilled and competent teachers since, not only are students in ITE far younger than the average in-service teacher – and hence more amenable to learning new concepts and skills – but they have more time – four years of full-time study – to do so.

Corporate donors have largely confined their efforts to providing bursaries to student teachers, says Taylor. He believes that, while this is important work and should be continued, an even more urgent priority is to invest in the improvement of the quality of teacher undergraduate education.

“In addition to these thought-provoking articles on how business can help to strengthen the education sector, this 22nd edition of the Trialogue Business in Society Handbook also provides industry-leading data on spending patterns and approaches to CSI, thought leadership pieces on the role that business can play in helping to address other key socioeconomic issues, including addressing the country’s high rates of violence, unlocking employment opportunities for South Africa’s youth, and strengthening the functioning of municipalities,” said Zyaan Davids Anter, managing editor of the Handbook. The Handbook is available from the Trialogue website: www.trialogue.co.za.

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