Faith Ngwenya, Technical Executive at the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), says the organisation has observed a dramatic drop in the number of scholars taking accountancy at school. “A significant drain in accounting pupils now will mean far fewer accountants entering the job market down the line,” she cautions.
In an online report for Sunday Times dated July 2017, Department of Education spokesperson Troy Martins said feedback from parents and teachers indicated that students were backing off from accounting to avoid taking pure mathematics. If admitted into accounting degrees at university, students with maths literacy are usually put on the extended/bridging programme and required to study four years rather than three.
Restoring the balance
Ngwenya says that pupils with an aptitude for the subject should be quickly identified and encouraged by their parents, teachers and society to pursue a career as professional accountants. “We need more awareness programmes aimed at helping these children make the right career decision as early as possible and stay the course throughout their studies.”
Greater involvement in education should come from business and government, the largest beneficiaries of a healthy accounting job market. Without an ample pool of talent to draw from, organisations of all kinds will suffer and face paying a premium to retain scarce financial employees or service providers. Awareness efforts should already begin in grade 9 when accountancy is introduced as a subject and career choices begin being made.
Ngwenya points to two SAIPA initiatives she believes are sound examples of programmes designed to boost interest in accounting among pupils.
First, SAIPA’s recent pilot of its Winter School concept provided disadvantaged scholars in the Ivory Park area with lecturers from universities in Johannesburg and mathematicians from Stats SA who helped them master mathematics, maths literacy and accounting. The initial run was very successful, winning enthusiastic backing and support from the Department of Basic Education’s Johannesburg East Division. We are also planning a ten-day revision session on the three subjects for the Grade twelves in Alexander and Ivory Park during the Sept/Oct school vacations.
Second is SAIPA’s annual National Accounting Olympiad, a competition into which schools from around the country may enter their pupils. The contest builds a sense of achievement, creates awareness about SAIPA’s values, and inspires interest in accounting as a long-term career.
“We hope to expand both programmes to as many schools as possible, eventually extending them down to grade 9 to create early momentum,” reports Ngwenya. Organisations interested in sponsoring or offering support for SAIPA’s efforts can contact the Institute’s head office for more information.