Newsletter 70 Failing Standards

In a policy brief titled “The Failing Standard of Basic Education in South Africa” by  Brenda Matshidiso Modisaotsile in March 2012 for the Africa Institute of South Africa the author list a few critical variables as the basis for this failure.

                “In South Africa there are many signs that show that there is a crisis in education. With high enrolment rates each year, and increasingly poor grade 12 output, it is clear that more concentration needs to be focused on the quality of education. Quantity should, however, also be considered when the majority of those learners who pass matric do not meet the minimum requirements for university entrance. In addition, of the number of learners enrolled in grade 1, only half make it to grade 12. It has been established that a number of factors or problems hinder learners from receiving a good standard of education. These include: parents’ lack of participation in their children’s education and the weak functioning of School Governing Bodies (SGBs). SGBs were formed in all South African public schools to oversee the administration of the schools, but they are often sidelined due to the lack of formal education and training of members, especially         in the area of finance and general administration of the school. Good leadership in schools is also needed to make sure that teachers attend to their classes diligently and learners take the    importance of education seriously. Government needs to ensure that teachers are trained accordingly and schools have adequate basic resources. This paper will discuss these factors that have been identified as causing the drop in the standard of education in South Africa, and some recommendations will be made to improve this untenable situation.”

The author then reached the following conclusion and makes the following policy proposals;

“Education is about much more than children sitting in classrooms, acquiring skills that can be objectively tested. Both the inputs to, and the outputs from, education are far more complex than much of the usual international discourse suggests. The inputs to education are described in technical terms, such as optimal pupil-to-teacher ratio or the availability of chalk and textbooks. Outputs are often described in economic terms, including the higher incomes associated with each additional year of education.58 Because education is first and foremost the vehicle through which societies reproduce themselves, both the inputs and the outputs in an education system may more rightly be thought of as a set of ideas about how a society is structured and should be structured in future. This means that the concept of providing each child with education is not simply a function of sending a child to school. Most importantly, parents as the primary caregivers of children must be actively involved in the education of their children.”

Phindile Lukhele- Olorunju, in an article entitled ‘Education and civil service: parents, teachers, students and government all stand accused’ states: “I do not think government alone has the solution, but should make this a national challenge that invites South Africans to throw in their contributions, no matter how seemingly insignificant. We are aware of the fact that there are many teachers who believe in their vocation and students who desire excellent education and are being frustrated by a few disasters. A system of flushing out the bad eggs and recognizing dedicated teachers and hardworking students is needed. Since parents are also victims and contributors to this problem, they will be more than willing to come up with a good suggestion to pave the way to solving this problem.”

Policy recommendations

  • Policy regarding pregnant learners should be reconsidered: pregnant teenagers should stay at home until they have given birth and only then return to school. Teachers are not equipped for the task of working with pregnant learners.
  • There should be better discipline at schools and increased involvement of parents.
  • Teachers should be recognised and rewarded adequately by government. Better incentives should be provided for teachers, especially those who teach in rural areas. This would enhance their commitment to their profession. Government should also ensure good working conditions, adequate resources and support, as job satisfaction is multi-faceted.
  • There should be better teacher training; reopening of teacher training colleges could train more teachers.
  • SGBs must be fully trained, especially in the areas of finance and policies of the Department of Education (DoE) and the provisions of the Schools Act (Act 84 of 1996). Members should be made aware of their responsibilities towards the school and its teachers and learners.
  • Drug awareness campaigns and sex education should be introduced at an early age and be part of the formal curriculum.
  • Life skills programmes should be designed to address the attitudes of young person’s towards binge drinking and drug abuse, specifically attempting to modify adolescents’ perceptions regarding the positive consequences of binge drinking and the use of drugs, and to introduce less risky alternative activities which are also likely to lead to more positive outcomes.

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