Country profile

At the time the SACMEQ III research project was conducted the population of South Africa had grown to approximately 49 million people. This was an increase of 8.2 percent on the 1996 statistics which were used in SACMEQ II research. According to the Community Survey 2007, the percentage of the population who were 20 years and older and had post-school qualifications (above Grade 12) was 9.1 percent, which was an increase of 3.1 percent in the period between 1996 and 2007. In the same age category the percentage of the population whose highest qualification was primary school only had decreased from 24% to 5.9 percent while the percentage of those who had no schooling at all had dropped from 19% to 10.3% in the same period.

Although there had been significant strides taken to transform the nation from the pre-1994 apartheid political, social and economic divisions and inequalities, by the time of SACMEQ III South Africa was still confronted with a mix of successes and challenges on the educational front in particular. Key among the successes has been remarkable improvements in opening up access to basic education for the majority of children of school-going age. South Africa’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) stood at 99% in 2007, which was virtually unchanged since the SACMEQ II study. The main challenge that remained almost intact was improving the levels and quality of educational outcomes as measured by the Reading and Mathematics Rasch scores obtained by the Grade 6 learners in SACMEQ tests.



Total population:
49 752 000 (2009)
Annual population growth:
1.1% (2009)
Rural population:
39% (2009)

*latest data as of 2009 from UNESCO Institute for Statistics.