Hope: Despite their pessimism, the vast majority of SA’s parents expressed confidence in their children’s teachers. Picture: SUPPLED
Hope: Despite their pessimism, the vast majority of SA’s parents expressed confidence in their children’s teachers. Picture: SUPPLED

Almost three-quarters of South African parents think education standards declined in the past decade, the worst rating among parents surveyed in 29 countries by education charity the Varkey Foundation.

The Global Parents Survey 2018 casts a deeply unflattering light on the nation’s education system and highlights how little trust parents place in schools catering for children from poor families. The survey, conducted by Ipsos Mori, included 1,000 South Africa parents, who were surveyed online. Altogether 27,000 parents participated in the global study,

More than half (54%) of the parents in SA rated free-to-attend schools in the country as fairly poor or very poor, higher than any other country surveyed, apart from Uganda (66%). Four-fifths (82%) of South African parents with children at fee-free schools said they would be likely to send their children to fee-paying school if they could afford them. Nearly four out of five (79%) said they would support the government providing education vouchers, which was more than in any other country surveyed, apart from Kenya (84%) and India (81%).

The survey examined parents’ hopes and fears and found South Africans were far more worried about the effects that discrimination and inequality might have on their children’s future than parents in any country other than South Korea, with 34% ranking these issues among their top three concerns.

Read the Varkey Foundation's Global Parents Survey 2018

They also voiced far greater anxiety about peer pressure and attitudes towards drugs, drinking and sex than parents in all other countries except Kenya.

Yet they were relatively unconcerned about health, a somewhat surprising finding, given that SA has the world’s worst HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Only 11% of South African parents listed health among their top three worries.

Despite their pessimism, the vast majority of South African parents expressed confidence in their children’s teachers. More than four-fifths (84%) of these parents said they thought the quality of teaching at their children’s schools was good.

Vikas Pota, CE of the Varkey Foundation, said: "Despite headlines of funding shortfalls and educational failure around the world, it’s remarkable to see how much faith parents have in the quality of teaching in their child’s school. However good or bad their country’s education system is, according to the global rankings, parents throughout the world have strong confidence in the abilities of their own child’s teacher. And almost two-thirds of parents believe their child’s school is preparing them well for the world of 2030 and beyond.

"Our research also shows that parents, especially in emerging economies, are taking their role in education seriously by devoting many hours a week to help their child out of school."

But governments needed to support parents by ensuring that under-pressure schools’ budgets were protected and reversing cuts in education aid in the poorest parts of the world.

"A $39bn annual shortfall in financial support must be found if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals on education and to ensure we give every child their birthright of a decent education," said Pota.