IN JUNE 1976, SA’s youth led one of the most extraordinary protests against a discriminatory approach to education. Their rebellion reverberated across the world to become the symbol of the struggle for freedom in our country. Yet, almost 40 years later, our education system remains exclusionary and fragmented, in more ways than is often believed.
We know very well that our schooling system has a dismal track record, not only by international standards, but also compared with many other African countries. Data show that more than half of the pupils who start Grade 1 drop out before Grade 12. A small minority pass matric and only one out of seven qualifies for university.
We also know that this is due to a combination of factors, including bad governance, poor infrastructure of the basic education system and rampant inequality. Public schools are underresourced and in short supply, especially in the most marginalised areas. This forces many students to travel long distances just to receive substandard education. When there are no functioning toilets, textbooks are scarce and classrooms are inhospitable, it is hard to see how teachers and students can perform.
It is certainly true that some teachers are ill-prepared but it is equally evident that most of them operate under significant duress, which makes those cases of success despite all odds even more exceptional.
There is no future for SA if we do not join forces and intellects to address the basic education crisis. But in order to do that, we need innovation, creative thinking and, above all, the capacity to connect the dots between the social, economic and political dynamics that have led to this state of affairs. And for that, we need better education and better collective leadership.
This leads me to a critical question — are at least the “good” schools preparing the future generations for that task? And are our universities, which receive the few students who make it through the eye of the needle, fit for new thinking?
Read the full article in Business Day: http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/2015/06/23/drop-classification-of-pupils-to-treat-academic-autism