South Africa’s first year drop out rate is not unique

Photo: For illustrative purposes only.

It is a myth that South Africa is the only country in the world with high first-year dropout rates.

Research done by Growth Institute, a private education provider offering a range of Commercial, Technical, and Tourism and Hospitality Management programmes, suggests there is a common theme underlying dropout rates around the world.

It may come as a surprise that 28% of German students do not make it past the first year. In the US, more than 30% of first-years do not go to second year.

Granted, the 50% first-year dropout rate in South Africa is high compared to the rest of the world. But here’s why:

• Students are not prepared for tertiary studies. They have to move from a relatively protected school environment into an environment where they are forced to stand on their own feet.

• Students struggle to get used to the “lecture and go” approach at universities. First year classes are often very large and lecturers do not have time to give individual attention to students.

• Students are hesitant to ask questions and some lecturers could give short, impatient answers to “stupid” questions.

• Students do not know how to make sense of their study material. They often move from rote-learning environments into an environment where they have to demonstrate that they can apply the learning material in a simulated real world.

• Tertiary exams are often based on integrated learning assessment. In other words, students have to glean facts from other subjects and disciplines in order to answer exam questions

• Students are often uninformed about study disciplines. Only after they have attended a number of classes, do they realise that the course they have enrolled for is not what they thought it would be.

• Students run out of steam. In other words, they are often not in the house where parents are prodding them to study.

• The first year is considered a big party. Senior students are not as social as juniors because seniors realise the consequences of failure.

Universities are rightly concerned about high dropout rates. It is time to step back and challenge the practice of admitting students into university directly out of school. Older generations will be quick to point out that, in their day, seniors watched first-years like hawks. First-years were expected to spend more time behind the books instead of socialising. Obviously, such a practice would be hard to swallow today.

Parents should consider enrolling their children into intermediate programmes such as the National Diploma programmes offered by many private colleges. These intermediate programmes gradually expose students to the rigours of tertiary studies. And, if after a year, students realise that a programme was not what they wanted, they could still walk away with at least some qualification instead of walking away with nothing, as is the case when dropping out of a mainstream institution of learning.

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Publish date : 2019-01-04 10:00:00

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