Cape Town - Education continued to receive the lion's share of the country's budget with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday announcing an allocation of R165 billion to the Basic Education and Higher Education departments for the next financial year.
This is up by more than R17 billion as compared to the previous year.
A further R2.7 billion will be made available to the Department of Basic Education for the roll-out of workbooks in all 11 official languages to help raise numeracy levels in Grades 3, 6 and 9.
Delivering his maiden Budget Speech in the National Assembly, Gordhan said while government spending needed to be kept in check, education remained the number one priority in the country's fiscus.
The R2.7 billion funding is expected to assist the Department of Basic Education address serious challenges in the schooling system.
These include findings that South Africa's numeracy and literacy levels for school children were unacceptably low despite a high level of spending in education over the past 15 years.
Challenges within the system include poor management, inadequately trained teachers, insufficient time for tasks and a lack of basic resources in poor schools.
Low levels of achievement in science, mathematics and languages have also been identified.
The workbooks in schools will help teachers to map out clear plans and guide effective use of the curriculum.
An annual R28 million is being provided for national assessments of literacy and numeracy for Grades 3, 6 and 9.
These assessments, announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address last week, will measure performance and allow educators and parents to make the necessary interventions to enhance performance. This is to prevent more dismal matric failures in some schools.
Further Education and Training colleges will receive R12 billion and a further R1.3 billion has been set aside to improve salaries of educators in the sector over the next three years.
Government says it will also use the R12 billion to promote higher training standards to meet the requirements of a changing economy while also addressing the lack of training in certain skills areas.
South Africa's lack of skilled labour is said to hamper economic growth as twice as many students are enrolled in universities as are enrolled in vocational colleges while in many other countries this ratio is reversed.
Existing skills training programmes are often inadequate to support the needs of individuals and the economy.
Allocations to higher education institutions have grown from R7.1 billion in 2001/02 to R15.3 billion this year.
An additional R1 billion is provided over the next three years to increase subsidies to universities while R5.6 billion will go to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Spending by provincial education departments is also expected to grow by 8.1 percent per year to R162 billion over the next three years to ensure the system responds to the educational needs of all learners.