Blade’s plan lends hope

2012-01-21 09:56

While mothers across the nation shed tears this week saying goodbye to their Grade 1s in oversized school uniforms, only a fraction of these kids will fulfil their parents’ dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers or accountants.

In fact, unless dramatic changes are made to the current education system, only a third will pass matric with admission to an institution of higher learning, while only a tenth will start university.

That’s if one looks at the most recent audited statistics of the 2009 group of matrics.

More than a million of these pupils started Grade 1 in private and public schools around the country in 1998, and more than half of them – 560?000 – wrote their matric exams in 2009.

Of those who wrote, 341?700 achieved some form of tertiary education pass, while 116?000 secured varsity entrance.

But Professor Ian Scott of the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Higher Education Development, said according to the centre’s best estimates, less than half of the 98?000 who enrolled in universities in 2010 would pass the courses they had signed up for in three years.

“Of course, you don’t want to pour cold water on people’s aspirations, but often there is an assumption that if you get a Bachelor’s pass, you are entitled to get into higher education.

“Obtaining a Bachelor’s pass has a high chance of misleading students into thinking that it’s a ticket into higher education, but it’s really not connected in a scientific way to their chances of success (in higher education).”

Scott said it was imperative for higher education institutions to start focusing more on adapting the teaching and learning processes of those who were already within these institutions.

Last week, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced an extreme plan to change the post-school landscape at the launch of the department’s new green paper.

Nzimande’s vision for the department seeks to increase the number of people enrolled at universities to 1.5?million (currently 899?120) by 2030, and the number of college and other post-school enrolments to four million.

The green paper provides a semblance of hope for the thousands of ordinary kids who started Grade 1 on Wednesday. By the time they finish matric, the plan will still be six years from culmination.

But it is worth remembering that South Africa would have had two general elections by then, as well as a new president.

Said Scott: “Implementing the targets will take political will, not populism. We have to deal with demand, but not give in to it.”

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