Significantly more South African children aged between five and seven are attending school than in 1996, according to a survey by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
In 1996, only 23 percent of five-year-olds participated in schooling, compared with 81 percent in 2011, the SAIRR said in a statement on Monday.
For six-year-olds, almost 50 percent attended school in 1996 and this increased to 93 percent last year.
School attendance among seven-year-olds increased from almost three-quarters to 96 percent over the same period.
Children between seven and 15 are legally required to attend school.
The research found that educational attendance rates dropped significantly for those older than 19.
While 65 percent of 19-year-olds were still being educated in 1996, this decreased to 59 percent last year.
The final grades of high school and university had particularly high drop-out rates.
SAIRR researcher Jonathan Snyman said the decline in attendance at educational institutions in this age group was "particularly worrying" given South Africa's skills shortage and high rates of unemployment.
Only 35 percent of pupils starting Grade 10 in 2009 went on to finish matric in 2011.
Only 14 percent of those who enrolled for a three-year degree in 2008, graduated at the end of 2010.