SA Schooling: A Tale of 2 Systems

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the key to a prosperous, intelligent, well-adjusted society is education. The matric results are out and on the front page of a local Johannesburg newspaper is a heart-warming, feel-good article about a young boy who received 6 distinctions, despite living in a shack, having to get up at 04:30 every morning to get to school on time and studying by candle-light!

And while my fellow Parent24er, Masanda Peter suggests we shouldn’t be too hard on the students, to me the single most important responsibility to our kids is to provide them with a good education. Education in all aspects: schooling, social, cultural, and life in general.

This kid’s achievements are remarkable because it’s tough having to excel while living in conditions that are barely fit for beasts to live in. But like so many before him, there are those bright sparks who flourish no matter how they start off their lot in life. But why should we have to endure these hardships? Why should other kids try to emulate this boy? I don’t think that they should have to. Well certainly they need to strive to attain his results, but no one should have to suffer or endure unnecessary hardships to have to achieve it. But that’s life isn’t it?

There might not be a consensus that all children are born equal, however, the one thing everyone agrees with is that every child is born with the capacity to learn. When it comes to school work and helping our kids, we have a huge responsibility. Schooling in South Africa and the education system is at best a sad tale of two extremes.

On the one hand we have the majority who have to try to obtain good grades by sitting in sub-standard class rooms and being taught by teachers who are not adequately qualified. In addition some of the learners have to run daily gauntlets through gang-infested townships just to make it to school. And all of this is topped off by a Department of Education that is still trying to find the best system to ensure our kids come out of school well-equipped to make their mark on society.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the private school system which offers an education to rival any in the developed world. But it comes at a price which only a relatively few can afford. A decent pre-school in northern Johannesburg will set you back about R3000 a month these days, which is an almost obscene amount for a 5-year-old. However, if you can afford it, your kids will come out of it with a distinct academic advantage. Which as we all know does not necessarily guarantee a successful life, but it doesn’t hurt does it?

My point is that our government should really be looking at providing good, world-class education, free of charge for everyone from pre-school to university. However the responsibility for your kid’s education remains yours.

Take a look at 2010’s results:

•    98% pass IEB matric exams (private schools)
•    2010 matric pass rate 67.8% (government schools)
•    5 ways to access matric results

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

How much responsibility should the government take for your child’s education? All of it? Or if there’s just a baseline responsibility... and if so, how should that be measured?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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