Who is failing our children?

It seems that most parents drop their children off at school thinking: “Great! My child is going be instructed in a range of subjects which will help them to find a job one day. In addition they will be taught self\discipline, moral values, ethics, social dynamics, public speaking, self-confidence and manners!”

Nothing could be further from the truth!

South African children are (generally) receiving sub-standard levels of education and too many parents are failing in their duty to instill those values needed to produce morally responsible citizens!

Discipline is virtually non-existent; it is almost impossible to get a problem child (read gangster, drug-dealer, bully, rapist, etc) expelled because this infringes on their ‘rights’; the children have a limited range of subjects to choose from (9? 11?) from which they will have to choose one of thousands of career possibilities; over-crowding limits individual progress; quality of education continues to decrease in order to increase pass-rates;  non-delivery of schools books and equipment continues to rob children of the chance to propel South Africa out of it’s 3rd world status! 

In stark contrast, one of my son’s friends attended a school in Vancouver in the late 90’s where he had more than 100 subjects to choose from! These comprised  the usual ‘core’ subjects, plus a diverse range of optional subjects ranging from pottery to journalism to astronomy to medical disciplines! So a student could for example, ‘experience’ journalism in a real journalistic environment for a term, and then change to another pursuit the following term if journalism did not turn out to be what they had envisioned. Ideally, each student has the opportunity to have several years’ exposure and experience in the fields which would one day become the core of their future jobs BEFORE they reached university! 

We sent our daughter to a fairly small, private school. The cost of sending her there was a bit more than a government school, but she had the advantage of smaller classes, resulting in  more individual attention from her teachers.  This sacrifice has paid handsome  dividends!

What sold us on this particular school was a visit to the grade ‘0’ class. A little boy of about 6 was called to the front of the class and and shown a colorful chart which depicted the day, date and year. The teacher got him to focus on the chart, and slowly and clearly read aloud:” Today is Monday, the  5th of October 1999”. After several repetitions, she asked the little man to turn around and ‘read’ the chart to the class. Beaming, he turned around, and moving his hand across the chart he announced proudly: “Today is Monday, the 5th of October 1999!

This lad was being taught the art of public speaking from the tender age of 6!

Senior school students begin each term by dividing the total number of pages for all subjects (for that term) by the number of school days (in that term). They then know how many pages need to be done each day. This number is then divided by the number of subjects (with certain rules to maintain academic balance). The student then sets up their own individual schedule, with weekly tests to determine how well they have understood the material covered. If they do well, they are awarded credits which results in benefits like wearing ‘civvies’ or getting off school early on Fridays.

As the education system used at this school (ACE) allows each child to work at their own pace, some children complete their schooling in less than 12 years. However, the real benefit of this system becomes apparent when they go to university – they arrive with a disciplined, proven and working study regimen which eliminates the need to cram for tests or exams.  The fruits of this is even more apparent when they receive their year-end results!

Year on year the attrition-rate of first-year university students is an indictment of the poor quality of preparation they undergo in the public school system.

Not only do many of these students arrive at university without knowing HOW to learn, many of them treat university with a total lack of appreciation for the privilege of even being there!  Far more focus and energy is directed towards getting stoned (on campus), getting invited to ‘jols’ and getting laid than on getting good marks! The subsequent failures translates into massive losses in educational revenue as the registration, tuition (and in many cases, residence and living fees) is simply lost, never to be recovered.

Education is indubitably the greatest investment that a nation can make and South Africa can ill afford such wastage, both financially and intellectually. 

Is the government\public schooling system doomed to repeat past mistakes and failures indefinitely or is there something that we can do to steer South Africa towards a brighter future?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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