Parents and their role in sustainable South African economic growth

South African Institute of Professional Accountants
5 May 2014
Parents and their role in sustainable South African economic growth
The financial sector, which includes among others accountancy services, is one of the sectors in South Africa where mathematical and science skills are important prerequisites. At the same time, the financial sector is also severely affected by a skills shortage.  
“To keep pace with the changing and increasing demands of the financial sector and for the demand of the economy to be met, the quantity of skilled professionals needs to increase, as well as their quality,“ says Dr Thomas Höppli, Economic Research Analyst for South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA).
The effect on economic growth
In his research paper for SAIPA (Matric Results 2013: A Reason for Celebration or for Concern for the Financial Sector?) Höppli examines just how many matriculants passed Mathematics and Science and how this affects the potential pool of financial professionals in South Africa that could possibly fill the skills gap.
“In 2013, fewer than one in five pupils who started school with the 2013 matric cohort sat the Maths exam. Furthermore, just 26.1% of those who wrote the exam achieved a pass rate of at least 50%, the pass rate that is relevant for a Bachelor’s degree.  Taking the total number of pupils starting in 2002 as a base, just 5% of these learners managed to pass Mathematics at matric level with a score of at least 50%.”
With regard to Physical Sciences, Höppli says the percentage is even lower – just 3.7% – no surprise given the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 that ranks SA last out of 148 countries in terms of its quality of math and science education.
“These facts are concerning, not only for parents who want their children to get an education that gives them good opportunities, but also for the country’s future economic growth which relies on a sufficient supply of skilled professionals,” Höppli continuous. “Parents need to encourage their children to persevere with Maths and Science, even if they don’t wish to pursue these subjects at a tertiary level.  These skills are in short supply in South Africa.  Not only will the opportunities and labour market perspectives be much larger for those who possess these skills, but it will also eventually contribute to economic growth.  After all, the skills shortage in the country puts a continuous strain on economic growth and ultimately on job creation, both for highly and for lower skilled workers.” 
Math and analytical skills aid in success 
Höppli says Mathematical Literacy, often labelled as “an easy version of Maths”, is not considered by the financial sector to be a sufficient alternative to Mathematics. In fact, Basil Manuel, president of National and Professional Teachers of South Africa (NAPTOSA), even goes as far as to say that it is "worthless for science and mathematics careers".  
“Parents and SME owners have first-hand experience that maths and analytical skills aid in a career in the corporate world, as well as in the success of the entrepreneur or small business owner,” Höppli says. “Science skills in particular are valuable as many new ideas and innovations are based on science and/or require some knowledge thereof.”
“In most sectors and the professions therein it is essential to maintain high standards, and lower standards cannot be accepted,” Höppli continuous.“This principle also applies to the accountancy industry where high standards, integrity and ethics are indispensable values.  Accountancy professionals prepare financial reports, help companies control costs through cost accounting, provide taxation services and advise private and corporate clients on a range of topics; and neither a private client nor a company can afford to have their financial affairs handled by a sub-standard professional.”
“It is incumbent on us to do all we can to ensure, not only that our children finish school, but that they choose subjects that will open doors to a brighter future, for them and for South Africa as a whole,” Höppli concludes