In most industrialized nations, divisions among social classes show not only in wide disparities between incomes, but also in significant differences between levels of education. And, in most industrialized nations, increases in educational achievement yield gains in income and social standing. In South Africa, an education gap threatens the nation’s bold experiment in multi-cultural democracy. While the education gap between privileged and disadvantaged citizens persists, South Africa cannot reach its full economic and political potential.
Studies show the education gap poses two significant threats to social equality: Disadvantaged South Africans do not advance as far in school as their more prosperous classmates. And disadvantaged South Africans do not study the same curriculum as their more privileged classmates. Each time the curriculum branches, disadvantaged students outnumber their more prosperous classmates in the lower branches by 5-to-1. After twelve years, disadvantaged students learn far less and a far different subject matter.