SA students are not equipped to handle higher education: Study


Not being happy with your study choice and failing schools standards are some of the reasons why South African students have admitted in a new study that they felt unprepared for tertiary education.

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

According to the survey‚ less than half of those surveyed felt prepared for the transition from school to high education institutions.

It 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 Nomvethe‚ PPS spokesman believes that 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”.

School desks – Less than half of students surveyed felt prepared for the transition from school to high education institutions, according to a recent study. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

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.

Professor 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 what I believe‚ 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‚ amongst others‚ 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 factors‚ that contribute to the high rate of student dropout‚” added Ramrathan.

Another education expert‚ Professor 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. By the time it comes to actually graduate‚ the openness and support has come to an end and the student must display full university standard. By then‚ some our students have caught up the gap‚ 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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