Why the South African Schooling System Will Continue to Fail
Having read the comments on several of the articles concerning the education system and matric results of South Africa, I couldn’t help noticing how most readers tend to blame it squarely on the teachers. Not denying the fact that there are teachers who are not pulling their weight, I do not for a minute believe that this is the main problem area.
The government is forever complaining about the shortage of technical skills in the country (and rightfully so). But when the Dept of Education (DoE) ushered the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) monster in through the gates of South African Schools, the first thing they did was to scrap all practical subjects like Metalwork, Woodwork, Needlework, etc. With any of these subjects on Grade 12 level, the learner at least had an opportunity to create a job for himself instead of waiting for someone to employ him.
He could at least DO something. But the DoE seems to have adopted a policy by which they attempt to turn all South Africans into doctors, lawyers and scientists. Mention the word ‘artisan’, ‘operator’ or ‘technician’ and you might as well use the K-word. Jobs like those are considered an insult these days.
Next the DoE decided that all learners should develop their mathematical skills, so they introduced Mathematical Literacy as a compulsory subject right up to Grade 12 level for all learners who do not take Mathematics.
Theoretically, a brilliant idea! But spot the mistake. They themselves never did the maths. Let us assume for a moment that 25% of all learners in grades 10 to 12 take Mathematics as a subject. (I’m pretty sure it is less) Now, keep in mind that in order to teach Mathematical Literacy in these grades, the teacher needs to be in possession of a formal tertiary qualification in Mathematics.
That means that, at the drop of a hat, the number of qualified Mathematics teachers required to teach mathematical subjects in secondary schools have quadrupled! Where did the DoE think these people were going to come from?
To teach Mathematics or Sciences successfully in grades 10 to 12, a teacher should be in possession of a B.Sc. degree or equivalent. What incentive is there for such a person to enter the teaching profession when they can earn 3 to 4 times the salary elsewhere? “Well, simply pay these teachers more!”, I already hear some saying. If you want serious trouble in SA schools, then do just that.
Pay one group of teachers more than the rest based only on the subjects they teach and I can guarantee you, all hell will break lose! To increase all teachers salaries to an appealing level would simply be impossible, as there is not enough money.
Until recently I was a Mathematics teacher myself. I quit, because the situation became unbearable. You are expected to teach Calculus and Trigonometry to Grade 12 classes that cannot even do basic arithmetic! And when the Grade 12 results are substandard, you and you alone are the villain!
A few years ago the DoE, in its infinite wisdom, came up with what they believe to be the perfect solution - a Matric Intervention Programme (MIP). This was nothing but taking the proverbial big stick and beating the daylights out of the Grade 12 teachers for the bad matric results, blaming all the wrongs of the previous 11 school years on them.
How ridiculous! How can you expect a Grade 12 teacher, who hardly has time to finish his Grade 12 curriculum, to do remedial work for the other 11 school grades in the same year? How can you fix the problems in a subject like Mathematics by starting in Grade 12? Why not intervene where the problem originates – the primary schools? The MIP led to quite number of well qualified, dedicated Grade 12 teachers leaving the profession. As far as I know the MIP is still in place.
As for the bad apples in the teaching profession, you have to ask yourself how they got there in the first place. Only one thing determines the quality of person that enters any profession – the remuneration package. The better the salary, the better the applicant. Of course there are exceptions. I know of many excellent, dedicated teachers still in the profession and I take my hat off to them. But one only has to look at the Education faculties of most universities to see how the interest in the teaching profession is dwindling…
One also has to question whether the ANC government has the political will to improve education in this country. Will it really be in their interest? According to Moeletsi Mbeki 70% of the constituency of the ANC has either not finished or never attended school or are unemployed. They are living off a measly grant and are thus 100% dependant on the ANC for a livelihood. Educating them will mean shooting yourself in the foot. Keep them uneducated and you will have a strong constituency for life! Educate them to the point where they can fend for themselves and you are bound to lose them.