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The cost of failed matrics

February 2009

[Shuttleworth foundation newsletter]
According to Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech and BizTech, ‘Parliament needs to urgently address the challenge of close to half a million matriculants who have failed in the past two years and who have scant future prospects in a rapidly globalising world where education is the key to competitive advantage’. She said failures in schools and universities coupled with exceptionally high drop-out rates were costing the tax-payer billions in wasted tuition and imperiling the economy with low skills and deepening poverty. In a study done in 2002 by DG Gouws and HP Wolmarans of the University of Pretoria’s Department of Financial Management, university failures cost the South African taxpayer R1.3b a year in terms of the amount of government subsidy wasted by a failure rate of approximately 20% of enrolled students or roughly 125 000 students that fail each year at South African tertiary institutions. Since then, failure rates have worsened. It is estimated that between 35% and 40% of students that enrol at tertiary institutions drop out before completing their studies. This percentage compares unfavorably with an internationally acceptable rate of about 10%. According to Van Wyk, ‘adding half a million failed matriculants to the millions already without work in South Africa’s streets will further ignite crime, deepen poverty and the diseases associated with it’.