Matric exams are with us again. In a few weeks’ time, we’ll have another media ‘circus’ when the exam results are announced by the Minister of Basic Education. Those provinces where the pass rate has improved will be lauded and excuses will be made where no improvement has been made or where the pass rate has dropped.
All manner of statistics will be presented, urban schools against rural schools, private schools against government schools, pass rates analysed in the various subjects, gender against gender. In a more positive manner, those learners who have excelled, even though the pass rate is 40%, will be praised, photographed and interviewed. All the focus will be on the learners who either passed, but there will be little mention of those who failed and no mention of those who ‘dropped out’.
In a scary way, basic education in South Africa gives the impression of an industry based on rigid mechanistic processes governed by rigid regulations and evaluated by means of standardised tests. If we think realistically about it, the product of our education system is data and statistics. We judge the education to be good if the statistics and data are considered good and bad if the statistics are bad. If we get better statistics and data next year, we believe our education system is improving.
Surely, we should judge our education system on the capability of the education system to produce innovative and creative youngsters, who are equipped to be gainfully employed, with or without further training, in a profession or a trade, or in companies that they have created for themselves.
Like the USA, our basic education system is based on noble ideals. In the USA the ‘Leave No Child Behind Act’ and in the ‘compulsory education until age 16’ in South Africa are intended to ensure that all youngsters benefit from a basic education. Why then, in both countries, are there so many drop-outs and why are there so many youngsters who pass matric but are unable to find employment?
Why too, is there such poor discipline in many class rooms, learners fighting, teenage pregnancies and the proclivity for drug abuse? Thankfully, the problem of guns in schools is nowhere as big a problem in South Africa as it appears to be in the USA.
Sir Ken Robinson, the renowned British educationalist, believes that the USA’s education system is going in the wrong direction and I think this is the case as well in South Africa.
Education must be a human system and not a rigid and inflexible ‘industrial’ system. Robinson maintains there are three main principles that allow learners to flourish: learners are children and are naturally different and diverse; curiosity drives human flourishing and education must be about learning and not passing exams. Learners must attend school for enjoyment not for employment.
Teachers must facilitate the children’s activities to stimulate curiosity and creativity in all the wonderful diverse ways that our environment offers. Teachers should be facilitators of curiosity and creativity, not followers of rigid curricula and adherence to strict regulations.
 Sir Ken Robinson Blog: www.sirkenrobinson.com
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