Revamping the South African Education Sector

2015-05-21 08:42

Recently I have been mulling over a number of issues which South Africa faces. Being a development economist any matters pertaining to socio-economic development strike a chord. One of the sectors which I am drawn to to a large extent (with my wife being the more passionate) is Education.

For a number of years this sector has constituted the largest share of the National budget with the allocation for 2014/15 being R265.7 billion.[1] Although the sector receives high allocations in the budget, the quality of education has not changed much or in some instances has been declining as seen by the quality of the graduates leaving the Basic Education level.

There is need for an increased focus on early childhood development to ensure children start their primary school with a good foundation which will set them up for success. The current policy whereby learners start receiving instruction in English at Grade 3 needs to be changed. Learners need to commence receiving instruction from Grade 1 so they do not fall behind their peers who start using the language from an earlier age.

Currently learners in Matric have the option of choosing a language for which they will be assessed in their final matriculation examinations. South Africa’s Department of Basic Education must make it compulsory for high school learners to learn one indigenous language which is a major one in their province coupled with immersion in the associated culture i.e. if in Limpopo- Venda, Tsonga or Shangaan; KwaZulu-Natal, Zulu; Eastern Cape- Xhosa etc. This will help in breaking down of barriers between races and tribes currently contributing to racism and tribalism.

The pass mark needs to change from the 30 and 40% currently in place as this is inculcating a culture of mediocrity in South African learners. Such a low pass mark in essence implies that the learner leaves high school not knowing 60-70% of the material learnt. A 50% pass mark is a reasonable pass mark which must be adopted in the sector. Government currently has been spending inordinate amounts on consultants.[2]  Could this possibly be a reflection of some people being in positions for which they do not have the relevant qualifications and experience? Such can be partly linked to the low quality of graduates from the National Senior Certificate level. Teacher training colleges should be increased in South Africa and there is need to make it compulsory that teachers undergo Continuous Professional Development. The esteem of the profession must be restored by making it attractive for qualified people to enter it. Rather than teaching being a ‘last resort’ for those who have found it difficult to get a job, people should be attracted to teaching because they have a passion and have the expertise to equip the next generation. Curricula- should reflect the modern world in which we are living in i.e. incorporating more technology in the learning process. Transformation of the tertiary level curricula to be Afrocentric instead of Eurocentric needs to happen. The issue of changes in the curricula is part of the call for transformation which has seen the rise of the Rhodes Must Fall movement at the University of Cape Town.

A compulsory work experience/internship component to curricula of all institutions of higher learning needs to be established to ensure graduates are work ready. There is need to incorporate lessons on entrepreneurship in the curricula of universities regardless of the Faculty to ensure the students do not just focus on being prepared to be employees but to also be employers (job creators). A revamp of the Education sector has great potential to help government in tackling the major challenges facing South Africa- poverty, unemployment and inequality.   [1] http://www.treasury.gov.za/documents/national%20budget/2015/guides/2015%20Budget%20Highlights%20C ard.pdf   [2] http://www.news24.com/Archives/City-Press/State-departments-spend-R102bn-on-consultants-20150430  

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