Not being happy with your study choice and failing schools standards are some of the reasons South African students have given for feeling unprepared for tertiary education, according to a new study

This revelation is contained in the latest PPS Student Confidence Index survey conducted among nearly 2‚500 students in fourth year and above‚ pursuing qualifications in engineering‚ medicine‚ law or accounting.

According to the survey‚ less than half those surveyed felt prepared for the transition from school to higher education institutions. This represents an 8% decline from 2016‚ and marks the first time in three years — since the survey was started — that the percentage has dropped below 50%.

Motshabi Nomvete‚ PPS spokeperson, believes the implications "of this lack of preparedness is no doubt contributing to the fact that 47.9% of university students do not complete their degrees as determined in the latest [2015] report by the Department of Higher Education".

She said there needs to be more engagement by the corporate sector and professional bodies with government on school curriculums to ensure the divide between secondary and tertiary education levels is reduced.

Prof Labby Ramrathan‚ based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school of education‚ said the school-to-university transition "is a complex phenomenon that has many facets". "The emotional facet of being prepared or not for this transition cannot be used as any substantive argument for the high rate of dropout from universities."

Ramrathan said the drop in percentage of students being ready for tertiary education "is related to the confidence in being able to access their study programme of choice and this is, I believe‚ what may have resulted in their lower levels of confidence in transition from school to university".

"There are a number of studies that have pointed to‚ among other [things]‚ being admitted to programmes that were not the student’s first choice as a reason for high levels of student dropout. Students have the potential to succeed‚ but there are several factors, including institutional‚ personal and academic‚ that contribute to the high rate of student dropout‚" added Ramrathan.

Another education expert‚ Prof Wayne Hugo‚ said: "At the heart of it lies the following problem: school standards are struggling to keep up to scratch for university level study."

"Universities accept students who they know are not university-ready because they know the school system is struggling and so they put in all sorts of foundation and assistance programmes that help the student," he said. "By the time it comes to actually graduate‚ the openness and support has come to an end and the student must display full university standards. By then‚ some of our students have caught up ... but those who have not experience a rude awakening."

Hugo added that the Fees Must Fall campaign had "a terrible physical and psychological toll on students and lecturers alike‚ resulting in an increased divide and less energy and commitment".

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