Here are the steps to fix SA schooling

2017-01-12 10:25

Education Policies for a developing state We are back to school in 2017 and as the frenetic hype of the first day fades, the focus shifts to learning and teaching – but not all schools unfortunately – are ready to start teaching. The reasons are varied: From the lack of stationery, unsuitable buildings and absent educators. The root of the problem is that there are too many layers of bureaucracy – not a bad thing in itself – but that consume resources in the South African context.

A lot has been made of budget shortfalls and what the problems are; here are some solutions:

Schools form the basis of curriculum delivery and the state should ensure that each school is managed according on a uniform basis with day-to-day conformation of curriculum planning and delivery.

This minimises the layers of bureaucracy, but increases accountability as school officials respond directly to the needs of their communities, with support from government.

Each school should be composed of standard entry and exit point with external quality assessment at least three levels throughout the student lifetime of 13 years.

A school is a school

It makes no sense to have separate primary and secondary schools.

If there is a mismatch in the numbers, where do the extra primary school learners go? You can’t simply make then vanish.

According to the Western Cape Government’s Strategy for the Elimination of Public School Infrastructure Backlogs in the Western Cape, there is a classroom shortage of 149 at 53 schools.

And while the digital strategy is being rolled out to facilitate smart education, 165 schools have no access to a library.

If all schools had one entry and exit point, there could be more accountable educational practices even as learners may change institutions for a variety of reasons.

It goes without saying that schools should be electrified and have adequate plumbing. Security for all schools and special security for schools in high-risk areas is a priority.

In addition, each school should have facilities, including, but not limited to: Public Primary Healthcare, Library Services, Public Internet Access Points, Public Forum Meeting points, Social Service Access points and Small Business Development offices.

Curriculum Delivery

Teachers have the primary task to deliver the curriculum. The role of the teacher therefore, is to teach.

Assessment is recommended as an external, independent activity. The purpose of external, independent, assessment would ensure a quality assessment of curriculum delivery at any point in the school system and able authorities to take corrective action swiftly.

From Grades 1 to 3, education focus should be on reading, writing and life skills. Teacher assistants should be mandatory for these grades, especially in poorer communities where children may not have the parental support that would facilitate appropriate early childhood development.

Post-Grade 3, specialist subject teaching should be the norm.

This enables teachers to develop the basis of subjects like language, mathematics and science, which assist learners throughout their school careers.

According to the 2013 National Diagnostic Report, prepared by Umalusi: “Despite the improved pass rate in Mathematics and in Mathematical Literacy, the lack of foundational competencies in Mathematics remains a challenge across the board.” Students are to be assessed for learning disabilities in Grade 1, 4, 7 and 9. Corrective action should be undertaken by specialist services based at every school, rather than at District Offices wherever they may located. Investment

There is a strong correlation between language and the ability to answer examination questions correctly.
“All the subject reports in this publication indicate that the poor language skills of numerous candidates are a major reason for under-achievement. This adversely affects the ability of those candidates to interpret questions and source material accurately, and to frame appropriate responses to questions,” says the 2015 NSC National Diagnostic Report. Ideally, learners should be placed in classes focused on their abilities, but this project may require a level of planning and sophistication above capacity of current officials.
Students will be required to specialise after Grade 9, to prepare them for careers. Throughout the curriculum, there will be special focus placed on English, Mathematics and Science.

Education is an investment where the benefits only become apparent over a long time horizon.

Officials should facilitate the best possible system the country can afford and resist the urge to tinker for political reasons.

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