SA Institute of Race Relations: old news used to promote annual survey
13 November 2007
Last week the Institute of Race Relations issued a press release that was headlined: "South African school pupils among the worst in Africa".
It then began the release with the following statement, "South African schools are among the worst in Africa according to research published in the South Africa Survey that was released this month."
This is misleading.
First, the Institute has conducted no new research. Instead it repeats Southern African Consortium on Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) research that was collected between 2000 and 2002 and published in October 2005 (called SACMECQ II). Over the past two years the research has been well ventilated in academic journals and the popular press.
Second, the results of SACMECQ II do not confirm the headline the Institute chose to give to their press release.
The Department of Education is an active member of SACMECQ III, which is currently busy working through data collected for a new SACMEQ report.
The Institute's press release was simply reproduced, almost verbatim, in syndicated Independent newspapers. For example, one SAPA version was published as, "SA primary schools among Africa's worst" Star, 8 November 2007.
Worse, the Pretoria News dedicated an editorial to the Institute's "report" and gave it the headline "Poor school results are a wake-up call" (12 Nov 2007).
"The SAIRR found that only one in five grade 6 learners met the required standards of reading and mathematics proficiency. This makes SA primary schools among the worst in Africa .…The SAIIR report is proof we need urgently to take stock of our education."
The Institute should be careful not to take credit for research it has not conducted. And newspaper editors should be careful not to copy the content of press releases.
The Institute of Race Relations has a well-earned reputation for excellent summaries of government policies and surveys of the provision of public services. With the demise of the Education Foundation Trust, the Institute's surveys are more important than ever before. There is no need to win media attention through misleading headlines and non-existent research.
Issued by the Ministry of Education
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