A recent study done by the Human Sciences Research Council, Stanford University in the US and the University of Botswana compared schooling in both SA and Botswana amongst 9000 Gr. 6 learners and found that the Batswana fail to teach 40% of their math lessons, whereas 60% of math lessons in the North-West province aren’t taught, even though the teachers in both these areas face many similar challenges in terms of subject knowledge and lacking training and confidence to teach. ( theTeacher August 2011 ). “The students in Botswana scored significantly higher with initial testing and made significantly higher gains over the academic year. “
Research leader, Linda Chrisholm states: “Basically teachers say: ‘We bunk classes because we don’t like teaching and we don’t like teaching because we’re not confident, and we’re not confident because we’re not trained in the subject’,”. (LD: So is the government employing people to teach Math who can’t, or are they expecting teachers to teach Math who they know don’t have the skills…).
A highly unionized teacher landscape in SA is said to constrain the ability of the government to pursue its policy objectives of improving literacy and numeracy and broader educational outcomes because of the expression of unionism at local level. Another feature pulling at the rears of education progression in SA is the fact that curriculum changes occur every so often and this makes it difficult for teachers to keep up to date and trained in whatever they need to teach according to the NCS (National Curriculum Statement).
The study found that neither teachers nor principals consider absenteeism as a serious factor. As you can imagine, this is a difficult problem to solve if the key players in the equation (the ones doing the work) don’t consider being in class as a major issue. (In my opinion, we need some serious intervention towards teacher empowerment, teaching teachers what their responsibilities are and empowering and equipping them with the tools they’d need to fulfill these…a workshop tour/campaign of sorts could possibly work…)
As their draft report said: “Our recommendations, evident as they may be to most reformers, represent more than just showing teachers and principals how to improve their effectiveness – it may require changing the underlying school culture from one that places first priority on teacher autonomy to one that focuses much more cleaarly on making students academically competent. “ (I think that part of the problem in ‘education works’ in SA and also in many other work sectors, is the fact that there is a culture of autonomy or self-satisfaction within the people that is to the detriment of the job being done. I believe the abundant presence of corruption is partly due to this fact. Lack of education and skills training also adds to the mix of a sometimes ill-informed workforce who find it difficult to find solutions when confronted with problems.)
Nomusa Cembi, national spokesperson for Sadtu (South African Democratic Teacher’s Union) – major teacher’s union in SA – said that “they encourage their teachers to teach the curriculum and remain on board”, when asked whether Sadtu recognised teacher absenteeism was a factor in poor learner performance (theTeacher August 2011). She also said that “our teachers never received proper training. We have been calling for it [an improvement in teacher training] for a long time.” Chrisholm said that the teachers at a workshop in July 2011 were delighted to receive subject content training. This “showed us that training in content can be effective - and enjoyable – if it is done well”, she said. (It seems as though many teachers are placed in positions where they aren’t qualified to teach and are left to fight a frustrating fight of lack of skill, knowledge and achievement. This does not make sense to me at all and I will look into this before the following blogpost.)
Granville Whittle, spokesperson for the department of basic education said that the accountability of all teachers remains a concern to them and that they as the department are addressing this in a number of ways [including] introducing performance contracts for principals and deputy principals. (Even though these contracts might help some people to get up and start getting things going, there is a key ingredient in education that is going missing here.
The heart behind education is empowering people to be all that they can be and equip them to succeed in a world they must survive in, here-in lies the passion, the drive for education and teaching. Forcing people to work through contracts might work to get them moving but lacks greatly in communicating the importance and value of good quality teaching.
Our educational workforce should be encouraged to start thinking critically about South Africa and it’s children and what they should be taught as they’re growing up in this information-saturated age. A. Karl – a doctor in curriculum development at Stellenbosch University argues that teachers should be part of the curriculum development process (that is, what is actually being taught) so that they can be empowered in forming part of the process. I don’t see how a sustainable culture of quality education can start with any other foundation – teachers must have a sense for why they are teaching and be part of the creation of a curriculum in order for them to take up ownership and responsibily in their teaching.)
Please add your comments and thoughts,
As suggested by one of my readers, I thought it wise to give a brief overview of the history of education in SA to shed some light on the current state of the Education system and its poor performance in our country.
How did we get here?
Before 1652 and the arrival of the first European settlers in SA, the inhabitants of the land (incl. San, Khoi and Bantu – tribes, speaking traditionally depicted African languages) had cohesive and thorough ways of educating their children in the stories and ways of their distinct cultures as well as teaching them the skills they needed to survive on a day-to-day basis in that time and in their circumstances, which was mostly in the ‘veld’ or desert.
Since the early 1700′s, it is commonly understood that “most of the formal education provided to African children up until 1953 came from missionaries. The system of Bantu Education was then instituted and the state took control of schooling for African children. ” http://myfundi.co.za/e/The_history_of_Education_in_South_Africa_III. Missionary schooling lead to tertiary educational institutions like Bible colleges being set up to train pastors and preachers. These were the first forms of universities in our country and were founded around the mid- to late 1800′s.
Since 1953, the Bantu Education Act was implemented amongst African children. Education was compulsory for white children until age 16, but for other races, till age 15. “The number of schools for blacks increased during the 1960s, but their curriculum was designed to prepare children for menial jobs. Per-capita government spending on black education slipped to one-tenth of spending on whites in the 1970s (even though 80% of South Africa’s population was black. Black schools had inferior facilities, teachers, and textbooks” (South Africa country study. Library of Congress Federal Research Division). In my interpretation, the government of the time considered people’s value for society and responsibilities towards society in the light of their ethnicity – and certain prejudicial assumptions they’d made about those different ethnicities.
Needless to say, the non-white youth of the day protested the fact that they received a lower level of education based on assumptions made about their value to society , which necessarily implied downplaying black people’s intellectual ability, based on paradigms constructed around race and ethnicity. This resulted in the protest at Soweto in 1976, and helped on the process of apartheid coming to an end.
In the light of the information above it is clear that the post-1994 government and educational department had their work cut out for them in attempting to tackle such a ‘lack of education’ that was pre-eminent in most parts of and amongst most people in the country. (I refer to the fact that 80% of South Africa’s population at the time were black people and merely had access to an education that would prepare one for working class jobs). Very few had access to becoming qualified specialists in any academic field or work environment. I know universities were allowed to enroll 1 or 2 black students per year in for example medicine. Tertiary education was largely inaccessible to black, colored or Indian people and some were given the opportunity to study overseas.
So how does this impact the way we see the current state of education?
Even though we can say that many families’ and children’s access to education has improved, the education they have had access to has not been very beneficial towards empowering them for qualifying for job opportunities in our increasing population, much less equipping them to making healthy choices for themselves and their families (which I and many others believe is part of education by the way). The value of education doesn’t merely lie in learning to read and write and learning academic or practical work skills, but also to identify problems, and solve them creatively. It also concerns growing the characters of individuals them in order to help them discern good choices from bad ones based on the consequences of these for themselves, their families, communities and the earth. Education in the practice of entrepreneurship, and responsible living, is crucial to a growing population such as South Africa has that is also growing in financial debt and spills over with crime, corruption and injustice.
This is it for the week.
Be blessed and keep dreaming. Shosholoza!
In the midst of our numerous complex challenges in SA, I thought it wise to start blogging on a topic I’m fairly familiar with as I am currently working as a teacher and concern myself herewith: Education.
This post is an attempt to cast an overview over our nation’s current educational climate with the intention of discussing these problems and throwing around ideas that could help a better understanding of these problems as well as possibly provide insight towards potential solutions.
Some facts to sketch the picture: (Thanks to the Mail & Guardian for some info)
* 70.2% of South Africa’s 2011 matrics passed. (Unfortunately, even though this number is a 10% increase of that 2 years ago, there is scrutiny about whether this number is a valid indication of our nation’s ACTUAL educational progress, as 75.7% of matrics applying to universities failed the university entrance exams displaying a lack of quality in their education).
* Just under 50% of matrics taking Math and Science failed.
* 50% of the 500 000 children starting school in 2000 didn’t finish matric.
* Some of those in the remaining 50% enroll in FET colleges but the Mail & Guardian publishes that one factor discouraging students from studying at FET colleges is their poor reputation. “The Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on higher education, Juanita Kloppers-Lourens, said that the sector was in a “dire state” and that many of the colleges were “dismal”.”
(In a developing country such as our own, not having matric or a qualification of similar caliber from a college, being a school drop-out implies a lack of job opportunities for many a South-African).
* Our school children, economy and political climate endure streets strikes from unhappy teachers who have
1. largely been excluded from curriculum planning and implementation strategies,
2. are thrown around to comply with new curriculum and syllabus requirements (without being included in the process and often not trained) every few years
3. expected to produce marks and worksheets in a machine-like fashion to meet policy and curriculum requirements,
4. in classes moving beyond 40 children a class,
5. with very little expertise, support and understanding toward the behavioural problems and disciplinary systems that fall dismally short of facilitating learning atmospheres in classes and
6. many times not provided with resources or tools needed to teach the prescribed curriculum in
7. old school buildings that are possibly falling apart.
(All of these are harsh conditions to work in, drains/overwhelms/frustrates many teachers into a place of hopelessness and selfishness – far away from the dreams they could’ve once had of making a difference in children’s lives and encouraging towards all they dreamt and were made to be. This frustration, in turn, is taken out on the children in their classes, and also probably their families at home, and of course, our streets).
This post indicates many problems relevant to and affiliated with our education system but also some of its impact on the broader society. I believe all these systems affect each other in one way or another and sometimes creates cycles of malfunction. In the next post I’ll aim to sketch a picture of the deeper intricacies and influential factors behind the education system in order to better understand the roots of this currently yucky tree we call the education system in SA.
Think positively! A new generation is coming through!
Welcome to Shosholoza Journey.
The word Shosholoza means “Make way for those coming through” or in my interpretation “make way for the next generation”.
I’m calling this site Shosholoza Journey because I find myself and on a journey of figuring out our current reality and society in this postmodern world. I am seeking to understand our current and possible future problems and lives within the context of society and structures in South Africa and the greater spectrum of the world and what we as young people can do about it: now and in the future.
What questions do we ask and what approaches do we take in aiming to answer them, what do we build and enterprise and how do we do this in the South Africa of today: a complex woven tapestry with a wide variety of influences, vast history of events, diverse and unique variety of rich cultures and the specific way in which these things have mingled to form a post-modern, post-apartheid South Africa.
On this blog I aim to ask questions and stimulate thinking and conversation around topics we face in our day-to-day lives of being South Africans. I aim to create a platform where we can assess, discuss, question and brainstorm current and future challenges South Africa faces. I hope that this will encourage all who partake of the blog, whether only in reading or participation, to think critically and constructively about the South Africa of today and the possibilities and more so, the potential for tomorrow. I hope that we might inspire the birth of sustainable solutions for any of the problems that are daily encountered in our country.
Join me on this journey, where the next generation is coming through…
Age doesn’t matter, it’s young minds we need to think positively, critically and constructively so please feel welcome to engage whatever age you may be.