The deterioration of our education system- what should we do?

2014-10-07 07:45

Our learners and students will be writing their final year examinations few weeks from now. We will all be expecting good results from the effort they’ve showed during the course of this year. They will be reaping what they’ve sowed.

That being said, I’m of the opinion that although many will be celebrating their achievements, in particular our matric/Grade 12 learners, most will unknowingly be celebrating mediocre outcomes. It is sad, very sad, that our education system is failing these young and vibrant youth who are eager to make appreciable difference in this country.

How does our education system fail our learners? Firstly, our thirty percent (30%) pass requirement!! Most of the achievers will be those with an average 30% pass requirement, and by virtue of the fact that 30% is regarded as a pass, it creates expectations that they have a good foundation to start their career. But ashamedly so, in reality, that is not always true. The majority will join many of our brothers and sisters at home with the same results, which do not able them to further their studies or get internships because they do not meet minimum requirements at higher institutions or in the workplace.

Secondly, for those learners who managed to pass well, well enough to pass with above 50%, will soon find themselves frustrated because the majority will face the same dilemma as the 30% pass requirement population. The issue with these ever-hard working learners is that they pass well in subjects like Mathematical Literacy, Life Orientation, etc. These learners want to be the engines and contributors to this country by furthering their studies. But these learners cannot be accepted into institutions of higher learning (colleges, university), as the subjects they studied do not match and meet minimum requirements of the courses they intend to study.

Thirdly, now these are the most frustrated learners, which I was once, part of. The ones who were lucky to be guided to make correct subjects selection based on their intended future careers. They managed to select Mathematics, Geography, Accountancy, etc. as these subjects meet the requirements of their intended field of studies. These are the students who cause stampedes at higher learning institutions in January of every year - January 2015 will be no different. The only thing they were told was to study hard and things will be ok. Ok, really? We were never told that studying hard alone is not good enough to see oneself pursuing one’s career the following year. You need to apply in time.

For the issues I raised above, I firstly suggest that a 30% pass requirement should be increased. This culture of a 30% pass in my view is dangerous because it fuels the entitlement mentality among youth, because it says that one can get things easy, ‘30% work done is good enough.’ Going forward this mentality will be impossible to change, if not now.

Secondly, ‘Career Guidance’ should be a compulsory subject in all schools. To make correct subjects selection you need guidance. To aim high, not to settle for 30% you need encouragement, the person who will show and explain to you what the world expects of you.

My third suggestion is that subject like Mathematical Literacy should be removed from our education system. It is there to raise pass rate quantity instead of quality. It is not worth having; it also misleads many learners and/or teachers.

Fourthly, subjects like Entrepreneurship should be introduced as part of our school curriculum. Emerging countries like BRIC claim to have high levels of entrepreneurial drive as the basis of their economic success rate over that of South Africa. With high levels of un-employment of our youth, perhaps entrepreneurship is a practical option that this country can critically investigate, prioritize, act on.

The study by Simeon Djankov et al (2006) “Entrepreneurship in China and Russia Compared” and other studies show that Chinese and Russian entrepreneurs have more entrepreneurs in their families and among childhood friends; they value work more relative to leisure and have higher wealth (not rich) ambitions. They also value education and are risk-takers.

I believe that if entrepreneurship in this country is to be a success story we need to improve the standard of learning and foster the competitiveness of the school curriculum. Entrepreneurship must form part of our school curriculum in order to instil and equip learners to choose entrepreneurship as a career choice among other professions.

Fifth suggestion, I must say that the call by our Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to re-introduce ‘School Sport’ is a brilliant idea. Most, if not all of our sportsmen and women, started their sport career at school. The fact is that not all learners intend to be academics or professionals through studying. This idea should be supported in particular by our Department of Education to ensure that ‘School Sport’ is accommodated back in our school curriculum. Needless to say, remember “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

Last but not least suggestion, we, the people of this country, should work together to address some of these issues. The communities we live in are peopled by responsible individuals. I for one have no doubts that this country has capable and responsible individuals who can cure most of the illnesses this country is experiencing. At the individual level we can teach, mentor and guide the children around us. Why not? We need more than just an outcome-based education system but an impact-driven education system.

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