Public schools can do better — experts

2011-01-05 00:00

THE South African education system needs to adopt a more systematic approach that not only focuses on education in its exit stages, but one that also pays special attention in improving quality teaching, school leadership and teacher development at the foundation phases.

This is according to education experts who believe that in order to improve the South African education system, the right questions need to be asked.

Professor Ruksana Osman, head of the Wits School of Education, says the results yielded by matriculants who wrote the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) examination are what is expected from these exams.

She believes public schools are capable of producing the same results if they concentrate on the three areas mentioned above.

“I looked at the matric papers set by both the Department of Basic Education and IEB and I think they are comparable, at least when it comes to the mathematics papers. They were very similar,” she said.

While Osman believes drastic changes will not be in the state results, she says it is important that the question asked when looking at the end-of-the-year results — especially when it comes to schools that are not producing — should be: what are we putting in for what we are getting out?

“There are a lot of state schools producing very good matric results. And close attention needs to be paid by the department in probing what those schools are doing right and how it can be repeated in other schools. They should also look at the role of parents in their children’s education from the foundation stages.”

Professor Volker Wedekind, deputy dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, also believes that South Africa’s focus needs to shift away from the final examination process, its international comparability and the standard of the exam papers.

“Umalusi has undertaken extensive comparative studies of curricula and the examinations set by the different exam bodies in South Africa and a range of countries. I looked at the report and they used a comprehensive methodology which I think is valid.

“South African curricula and exams compare favourably. I don’t think there are significant problems with the curriculum or the exams set. We have far too much emphasis on that. We need to look at what is happening particularly in public schools. There is no reason that more public schools cannot achieve at the level of independent schools since there are a lot of relatively poor independent schools that are not subsidised and rely on low school fees for their operation and yet achieve good results.”

Wedekind believes that what is needed is an upgrade of teacher skills, improved management skills and greater commitment from teachers.

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