Hackschooling: The trend we should be watching

2014-01-24 10:00

The release of the 2013 matric results brings welcome relief to those who have passed and gives the basic education department a chance to crow about improved results.

This while the cynics raise their eyebrows?–?again?–?as they question the quality of our education system.

The fact that many universities now insist on National Benchmark Tests (and in some cases, literacy tests) prior to admission, speaks volumes.

The problems facing successful matriculants, and postgraduates, are multilayered.

The learners who make it into university are going to find themselves in an environment that is in a state of flux.

And yet, each year, we focus on pushing our young learners through an educational sausage factory to get the desired results.

In our quest to get them a National Senior Certificate, we seldom stop to ask what our learners have really learnt.

A friend recently did have “the gall” to ask. She is an early adopter of “hackschooling”. To ensure her daughter learns differently, her education has been somewhat unconventional?–?a combination of independent college learning and home-schooling. But parental concerns are universal.

The subjects her daughter was passionate about, and those she wasn’t, were starting to show in her marks, hence her conversation with the college.

Even this independent college’s response was disappointingly standard. “Don’t worry ma’am,” they told her cheerfully, “we’ll make sure she passes.”

But “just passing” is not what my friend wants for her daughter.

She would like her to finish 12?years of learning with the ability to think for herself, and not just to regurgitate enough for a passing grade.

“You’re not like the other parents,” was the school’s parting shot.

I’m glad she’s not, but I am concerned that most parents are happy with just a passing grade and don’t question what their child has learnt.

As Albert Einstein said: “Education is what is left after one has forgotten everything one learned at school.”

For the parents of the learners who did get a National Senior Certificate, the next lemming run starts?–?that of getting their children into tertiary education.

I’m not quite sure what the rush is.

I recently watched a documentary on the human brain that simply reaffirmed my belief in hackschooling. The documentary mapped the development of the human brain from birth to adulthood.

As parents of teenagers will know, adolescence is when the young brain is most volatile. It is when the human brain shifts into adult thinking mode, when logic and reasoning are fine-tuned.

Physiologically, our brains only settle and stabilise at the age of 21.

Why, then, are we forcing 18-year-olds to make lifelong career decisions when they literally can’t think straight?

It is no coincidence that many young adults change their minds about their career choices, on average, four years after they first start university?–?at about the ages of 21 or 22.

Many parents complain that they have wasted their hard-earned money on their child’s university education only to see them pursue completely different career paths.

It’s a recurring story with a physiological explanation, yet we keep repeating the experience.

The world has changed, but our education systems have not. Traditionally, they are focused on teaching us to make a living, but not to make a life.

It’s a one-dimensional approach. Careers today (especially for the next generation) are multilayered, multifaceted and no longer follow a single, predetermined trajectory. And hackschooling?–?quite rightly?– questions the status quo.

It’s time to stop the lemming run and to ask the uncomfortable questions.

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