There are numerous factors that affect maths education in South Africa, and many are socioeconomic. A University of Pretoria study looking at safety factors associated with mathematics achievement in South African schools was published in the EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in 2021.
This study analysed data from South African respondents of the TIMSS 2019 study. South African learners in grade 5 and grade 9 participated in the TIMMS 2019 study, and South Africa came out second from the bottom out of 39 countries. This caused alarm among experts and is one reason for the many educational intervention programmes and plans in the last few years. Yet results remain low.
The University of Pretoria study found significant predictors to learner’s mathematical achievement. Most of these have to do with lack of safety that learners experience in both their home and school environments. Participants in the study believed that schools’ safety concerns are associated with learners’ mathematics achievement, with a lack of training responsible for school safety policies not being implemented.
There is little research on safety factors in South African schools and how they contribute to educational outcomes, particularly when it comes to mathematics learning. However, safety in South African schools is a well-known issue. From the impacts of violence within schools, to schools needing to spend money on replacing stolen or vandalised items, to learners being affected by feeling unsafe at home – safety affects learning, which affects mathematics achievement.
The study makes several recommendations, including:
- school safety must be a policy and funding priority
- governments must develop staff capacity in school safety management
- budgets must be allocated for specific focus on school safety
- learners, teachers, and school management must be involved in school safety management
The study concludes that since socioeconomic status is the most significant predictor of learners’ maths achievement, and learners in high-poverty schools have lower mathematics achievement than those from higher socioeconomic status areas, making schools as safe and healthy as possible would increase mathematics achievement.