South Africa’s poor ranking of 47th out of 63 countries in the latest IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking was a direct result of an ineffective education system that neglected maths and science.
Pierre le Roux, CEO of Moyo Business Advisory (MBA), said little or no effort was being made to engender a love of maths and science to enable learners to do the so-called difficult subjects like information technology at university.
“The rankings clearly show that we are falling further and further behind in how competitive we are in this most vital field in which we absolutely need to excel if we want to build our economy and create jobs for the millions of unemployed South Africans.”
The survey released by the Swiss-based business school measures the business competitiveness of countries across 260 indicators using data with partner institutions within countries. The research also takes into account survey responses from 6 250 business executives.
South Africa ranked even lower in terms of knowledge (49). The country’s knowledge measure is based on the extent to which talent is attracted, education and training and scientific contributions in the digital space.
Relative to other BRICS nations, China ranked 37, due to its high investment in technology. Russia ranked 46, India 51 and Brazil 56.
He said his company had long been involved in the provision of mentorship programmes to students in the business and IT sector with “outstanding” results.
“Rather than taking the route of providing bursaries to students, we provide them with internships where they can learn on the job and be mentored by their peers in every aspect of the broad range of services we deliver in information technology and business consulting.”
Le Roux said their internship programme had been hugely successful and had produced some first rate programmers and business consultants.
The financial benefits for students are significant in that they start earning a good salary from the word go.
The issue of basic education and the poor state that is in had left mathematics and science as orphan subjects that few learners were willing to tackle because of a misapprehension that they were difficult subjects.
“If these subjects are properly taught they are easy but it requires a high level of skill from a teacher to do this and we simply don’t have enough capable teachers in our schools.”
“We realised that university involvement alone will not address the problem. Therefore, we are busy negotiating an upliftment program for both learners and the general public in one of the Tshwane townships.”
He said there also had to be a rethink about higher education in order to shift the emphasis away from the arts or social sciences where no maths or science was needed but for which there were very few job opportunities.
“We regularly hear the complaint that graduates with degrees or diplomas are sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. When you look closer at these students almost without exception we find that they have degrees or diplomas in the humanities rather than in the hard sciences where there are plenty of jobs,”
He said a shortage of students with business, information technology and engineering skills was holding back the economy.
“We could accommodate many more interns if they were out there but the demand totally outstrips the supply in the so-called data science field which includes mathematics, statistics, computer science and business-related subjects.
By Pierre le Roux, CEO of Moyo Business Advisory