South African school pupils have performed dismally in the latest Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) study, casting harsh light on the quality of basic education. Grade 9 and grade 5 pupils came second last in maths, while grade 9s were at the bottom of the pile in science, trailing other African countries like Botswana and Morocco. Grade 5s did not participate in the science tests. TIMSS is an in-depth assessment of the teaching of mathematics and science, and is conducted every four years. The results of the 2015 tests, which were conducted in 60 countries, were released online on Tuesday. The tests are administered to grade 4 and grade 8 pupils in most countries, but in SA they are done by pupils in grades 9 and 5 instead. As SA has participated in the study since 1999, the trends in its performance provide a gauge of the health of the education system and help policy makers design interventions to try and improve it. The latest results show a slight improvem...

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