South African education has undergone many changes in the past two decades. In an attempt to educate all South African children and provide as many prospects as possible, a funding system was adopted with the intention of achieving "redress, equity and quality" (DoE, 2006). The goal of redress was important to begin solving system discrepancies between different social groups in the country whereas the goal of equity is one of the means to attain redress. The Quintile Funding System has been considered the means to achieve equity and redress. This tiered system directs more funding to those learners in need of financial support than more affluent learners. By increasing funding to learners of a lower socio-economic status (SES), learners who would otherwise be disadvantaged, could possibly reap the benefits of more opportunities through good quality education.
This study aims to investigate the functionality and relevance of the quintile funding system. By using the preProgress in International Reading Literacy Study (prePIRLS) 2011 reading literacy test results and background survey questionnaire data, the SES of each quintile is examined. The reading literacy achievement is also used as a proxy for education quality and, by examining the differences in prePIRLS 2011 reading literacy achievement of the quintiles, the levels of quality may be established. The SES and reading achievement enables a comparison between quintiles to justify the use of a five-tiered funding system. An effective funding system should ensure that the largest number of learners in the country reap the most benefits from a good quality education.