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Smooth, staggered or stopped? Educational transitions in the South African Youth Panel Study

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Corporate author/s:

Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)

Person/s author/s:

Isdale, Kathryn; Reddy, Vijay; Winnaar, Lolita;; Zuze, Linda


briefing or fact sheet



The South African Youth Panel Study (SAYPS) followed Grade 9 learners who participated in TIMSS 2011 over four consecutive years, in order to explore the educational transitions of young people. The study found that: South African learners follow one of four educational pathways. Forty-seven per cent follow a smooth pathway, where they progress through secondary school without interruption. A further 40% follow a staggered pathway where their advancement is marked by at least one interruption. An additional 7% remains stuck in grade 9 or 10 and a final 7% leave school shortly after Grade 9 and do not return. Although 57% of the smooth transition group come from fee-paying and independent schools, 43% come from no-fee schools. ΓÇó Learners who follow a smooth transition tend to have better educated parents and to achieve higher scores in TIMSS mathematics and science. Positive attitudes about school, prior achievement and high educational expectations are all related to smooth transitions. Gender (being a boy), age (being older) and grade repetition are all related to interrupted pathways through school. While the importance of prior achievement and school quality is clear, many young South Africans from the least well-off schools who have low average TIMSS scores are nonetheless following smooth progression pathways.

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