SOUTH African primary pupils are academically way behind those in many other African countries, surveys of education across the continent have revealed.
A study commissioned by the South African education department, involving more than 10,000 10-year-old pupils, showed them performing less well than those in 11 other countries such as Botswana and Madagascar.
South Africa participated for the first time ina joint United Nations' learning achievement project, intended eventually to produce an in-depth analysis of education in 18 African countries.
South African 10-year-olds scored an average of 30 per cent for numeracy compared with Botswana's 51 per cent average and 49 per cent for Uganda. A large portion of South African pupils achieved less than 25 per cent while oly 2 per cent obtained 75 per cent or higher.
The pupils did better in literacy, averaging 48 per cent and outperforming children in Botswana, Malawi, Niger and Zambia.
Dr Anil Kanjee, a Pretoria-based researcher involved in the analysis, said that for many of the participating countries, the figures are providing their first comprehensive picture of education standards. They will be used as a benchmark to measure future progress.
Achievement levels at age 10 are important in Africa, since many children leave school at this age.
A key finding of the analysis was that countries where pupils learn in their home language, for instance Arab-speaking nations, outperform those where large numbers of children learn in a second or third language - Anglo and Francophone Africa.