Quality education for sustainable development: Are we on the right track? Evidence from the TIMSS 2015 study in South Africa

  • J. K. Alex Walter Sisulu University, South Africa
  • A. Juan Health Sciences Research Council, South Africa
Keywords: Quality education, Sustainable development, TIMSS 2015, Mathematics achievement


Obtaining quality education provides the foundation for improving people’s lives and contributes to sustainable development. The world has come a long way in achieving the goal of equality in primary education for girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education, as reported by UNICEF (2016). The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, in 2016, warned that social ills such as South Africa’s high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment have an effect on the quality of education offered, taking into account different levels of education at various schools. South Africa now participates in many national and international benchmarking studies to assess its progress in the quality of schooling and in specific areas of the curriculum against international standards. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is one of the studies in which South Africa has participated since 1995. Subsequent to
1995, the country has made considerable progress in mathematics and science achievement – key subjects for much-needed national development. Approximately 12 500 grade 9 learners participated in the 2015 TIMSS from South Africa. The purpose of this paper is therefore to investigate the contextual factors that exist and to critically assess the progress made by senior phase mathematics learners in TIMSS 2015. This is to make recommendations in order to accelerate this progress thereby positively contributing to learners’ performance in the Eastern Cape and, in the long term, to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as laid out in the National Development Plan of 2030 for South Africa.


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