I had a few tweets with Samantha Laing, Helen Zille & JC re facts vs skills and thought I’d write down my thoughts in a more “agile” medium that twitter, so here goes!
Firstly, in education in general, we must approach things differently if we wish to have different results from what we’re currently having.
I made a point about basics.
That boils down to really basics.
I find many kids, a large number of black South Africans, but also, to a much a larger extent than previously, coloured and white kids (if I may generalise so brashly for this purpose), that do not have the basic ability to communicate, express their thoughts or write in any language. They cannot grow their skills by reading, unless they really really want to or have to, and then it is with great difficulty, simply because they cannot read. Of course, the under-stimulated mind is not interested in much, so this is a self-defeating cycle and few manage to break out of it. It’s a culture of entitlement, supported by the acts and talk of national government, not a culture of learning, self-improvement and development, that we currently have. Having said that, there are notable exceptions and sterling examples of quite the opposite, but sadly they are the exception, not the norm.
Reading kids rule!
I personally endeavour to motivate people (of all races & incomes) to read to their young children daily and to let the children read to other young ones again. I encourage them to use our public libraries and improving their own reading in process, starting with simple books, advancing as they make progress. I find, however, that there is a resistance to this, that watching TV is less effort, and therefore progress is slow. It doesn’t help, of course, that we have a culture of laziness among many teachers in public schools (that for example sit and drink tea till first break or involving themselves in political activism during school-time, while primary school kids entertain themselves) while others work their fingers to the bone in an effort to somehow equip kids to be able to learn more and “make a living”. The same goes for DoE officials who love spending money on futile pursuits and unproven educational experiments, or even worse, educational exploits that have been undeniably proven a failure. Instead of a pragmatic simple approach, they diddle-daddle with trivial and peripheral issues (attempting to bring high technology to kids for example), while kids come out of school being neither able to read nor write, let alone reason, spot logical fallacies or think creatively. The latter, is of course often due to the stifling of creativity in the schooling system.
My wife and I have home-schooled two kids and have two in public school, so we have seen how certain approaches just don’t work and how others have great results. We know how much kids from the same parents and home differ in learning style, interest and ability in different areas, let alone kids from different parents, homes and environments. I am therefore by no means closed to alternative views or approaches to education and skills development! I also taught at a high-school for a while and have seen the practical side from a teachers perspective and know the challenges faced in teaching children other that your own.
I furthermore firmly believe education is not primarily a function of Government, but one of the community. Once solution could be this: The elderly are often excellent teachers and have a lifetime of wisdom and experience to draw on in transferring skills, developing young people into achieving their dreams and making a meaningful contribution to society at large and individuals in particular. As it is now, many are simple shoved aside and considered a burden. Instead of giving social grants to the unemployed, maybe grants should be given to all elderly people that develop young people. The control that National Government attempts to exercise more and more in a clear attempt to maintain is power-base, it in itself shameful and deplorable, but by now means unique to South Africa. I saw with my own eyes as a teacher the unbelievable lows that the DoE stooped to during the teachers strike in 2004 in an all out attempt to not pay teachers more than their measly salaries – straight lies, deceptive tactics and every dirty trick in the book, that I would not have believed, had I not seen it with my own eyes. The correlation between education and controlling poorly educated masses may not seem clear to all readers, but as I have pointed out elsewhere, it is much easier to control hungry, needy masses, than educated, enlightened free-thinking people.
We can however break this stranglehold, starting in our communities by grow a culture of learning, breaking the culture of entitlement, developing the live-long ability and desire to grow, learn and go where we haven’t been before. How is not easily answered, but one thing is certain: As soon a the DoE stops their monopolistic attitude towards education, especially since they’re failing dismally at it, and the national government actively supports educational efforts outside of their government box, we will make huge progress with this. Some points to consider on this regard:
- Why are donations to schools and school fees not tax-deductible to start with? How can anyone in government claim their are serious about education while strangling the development of schools in the community?
- Why are schools forces in languages which are foreign to them and their communities? How many Afrikaans schools, with Afrikaans learners are forced to start teaching in English? Has the ANC learned nothing from (or rather since) the struggle?
- Why are people that choose to home-school (and generally speaking having excellent results!) persecuted by the DoE, when in fact both the Constitution and the Education Act specifically protect the right of parents to home-school? Why does the DoE waste millions of Rands on these efforts, when they have so many schools that are ill equipped, even some with no classrooms?
- By what right does the DoE pay subsidies to public schools, yet when the same tax-paying citizen send their children to a Waldorf, Montessori or other private school, they do not receive their fair share of the tax collected for education? Are most of these schools not superiour in the level of education, skills and ability that they “produce”? Should they not therefore be supported even more?
- Why are well-education, highly skilled teachers, that we’re “fired” because of BEE, not brought back to alleviate the desperate shortage of skilled teachers? So what if they’re the “wrong” colour!? When will the short sighted racism of the ANC stop and will they start serving South Africa, as their election mandate requires of them? Actually, when will the people who put them in power, remove them if they don’t deliver? This is not about politics, but when politics starts interfering with the development of the future of our country, it becomes all about politics.
I suppose there are more points that can be added here, but the principle is, simple. Government but stop their nanny state, preventive approach and support and encourage communities to grow, learn and thrive.
I’d like to hear from people that have ideas and experience in this!