Education crisis a threat to democracy - Jansen

2012-11-22 22:26
Jonathan Jansen (Picture: Volksblad)

Jonathan Jansen (Picture: Volksblad)

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Johannesburg - The country's democracy will implode within 10 years if the crisis in education is not immediately fixed, University of the Free State vice chancellor Prof Jonathan Jansen said on Thursday.

"I hate to be the prophet of doom, but I am also optimistic. Our democracy will implode if we do not attend to the education system," said Jansen.

He was delivering the 2012 Helen Suzman Foundation public lecture titled 'The Mathematics of Democracy' in Johannesburg.

The World Economic Forum's report on state of education globally, where South Africa’s education system was ranked as one of the worst in the world, should be a major concern, he said.

The country ranked 133 out of 142 countries surveyed.

"A democracy should be worried about such an outcome."

A poor education system breeds social ills such as violence and crime.

"Teachers sleep with pupils, there is rape, drugs and pregnancies right in our schools. The violence we witness daily is because of the failure of the education system."

Violent strikes on the mines and on farms in the Western Cape were because the education system had failed young people, the majority of whom were black.

"We have failed to give them the tools that should be there at foundation phase of schooling."

Jansen compared the government's approach to the need to improve maths in schools as the same as that under apartheid.

"Neither Hendrick Verwoerd [the architect of apartheid] nor the current minister of education believe that a black child can excel in mathematics," he said.

He said more and more pupils, the majority of whom were poor and black, were taking up maths literacy, the easy version of the mathematics subject.

"We have reduced education to a forced-feeding exercise that takes place before the examinations.

"We have given up trying to find ways of dealing with the problem."

Schools compensate poor teaching of mathematics with a poor, less challenging subject.

"The loser is the pupil, who realises that their dream of studying engineering or accounting at university has been thwarted as they do not qualify based on the school subject called maths literacy."

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