Changing curriculum 100 times won’t fix education system – Adam Habib

2014-10-07 14:54

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Professor Adam Habib has lashed out the government, saying every time there was a new minister in the basic education department, there was a new curriculum.

“You can rewrite the curriculum 100 times, but if you don’t teach nothing will happen,” the vice-chancellor and principal professor of the University of the Witwatersrand said.

“You can’t fix the education system by rewriting the curriculum. If you are a teacher, you need to be in class, and if you are in class you need to know what to teach.”

He complained about the lack of leadership in the country.

“We are at a time of reckoning in our future. If we don’t fix these things, society will burn and we will run.”

Habib was today addressing the South African Principals’ Association outside Polokwane.

He said good schools were a reflection of hard-working, dedicated and committed principals who were willing to take hard and unpopular decisions.

“If [a] principal works, even with the failure of the state, the school will work. Great schools in poor areas are really about great principals in those areas. You can’t fix the system without good management,” said Habib.

He said a study conducted by his institution revealed that hard-working principals were the reason why schools in areas with bad socioeconomic conditions excelled.

Gail Campbell of the Zenex Foundation shared Habib’s sentiments.

“The principal as a leader is at the heart of a good school. You are the chief executive of the school,” she said addressing the more than 600 delegates. “It’s a lonely job, it’s a tough job.”

Another guest speaker, Louise van Rhyn, chief executive of Partners for Possibilities, said principals often didn’t know what to do to change their schools. Partners for Possibilities is an non-governmental organisation aimed at bringing principals and business leaders together in order for them to learn from each other.

“You really have a tough but critical job. Our future is in your hands. You know they say when a principal sneezes, the whole school catches a cold. That’s how critical you are. Just make a choice to lead and be responsible.”

First things first Habib said one of the problems in South Africa was that everyone wants to do big things, instead of taking care of the small things first and letting the bigger things take care of themselves.

“As a society we want to fix world-class things, but we can’t fix basics such as broken windows and toilets in schools. We can’t have teachers and learners in class teaching and learning.”

He said it was about time to stop asking experts what to do to fix education. “Let’s stop theorising and stop asking the experts. Ask the parents. They will tell you to fix the windows and the toilets first. Do the little things first and the big things will happen.”

Daya Chetty, chief executive of the South African Principal’s Association in Gauteng, said principals should be honest in everything they do.

“Be honest in every transaction in your school. Be fair and transparent.”

He asked principals to be firm and lock out late teachers and pupils.

“Lead by example. You can’t ask teachers to do things you are not doing yourself. Leadership is all about teaching staff and pupils the behaviour you would like them to emulate from you.”

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