Bringing S.Africa’s education system to book proves positive - CNBC Africa

Bringing S.Africa’s education system to book proves positive

Southern Africa

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A young learner writing on a blackboard. PHOTO: Getty Images

“Last year, in the poorer schools, 78,000 learners passed on a bachelor’s level. A bachelor’s level is a really substantial matric achievement. 78,000 of them [however] overcame all the hurdles,” Gillian Godsell, associate research fellow at Witwatersrand University, told CNBC Africa.

“Educating poor children is the hardest thing to do. They battle with that in the United States, they battle with that in Australia, and we have overcome this. [Nevertheless] it’s a pushback against poverty, because those children will be able to help their families up [and] out of poverty.”

(READ MORE: Poor basic education a vicious cycle)

South Africa’s primary education system in particular has been in a shambolic state for a length of time, and the trickledown effect of different schooling for black and white students in the apartheid era has further exacerbated its current challenges.

Godsell added that South Africa is however making headway as teacher training and school curriculum has significantly improved.


She however explained that while curriculum expected learners to utilise critical thinking when answering questions, a number of them had failed to do so as they had not properly developed the mode of thinking.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges, but I think we’ve done very well. The illiteracy of the general population has gone down from 29 per cent to about 16 per cent in the last 10 years. We are at last focusing on black [learners’] education, and we didn’t do that before,” Graeme Bloch, an independent education specialist, explained.

“We don’t even know what the statistics were in 1979, [but] we’re getting there. I think we need to see a lot more teachers involved, but I think teachers are slowly getting more involved. We’ve got the era of mass education upon us, and the whole world has got it.”

In India, a law was recently passed whereby every private school was now required to take 25 per cent of learners that were unable to pay for their schooling into their systems.

The state would then reimburse the private schools at the amount of money it would usually spend on learners in state schools. Godsell described such a law, if implemented into South Africa’s education system, as instrumental in gaining significant ground in improving the sector.

(READ MORE: Spending vs. standards for S.Africa's education system)

“This 25 per cent principle is not a bad one. I would say think about 25 per cent: take some learners who don’t have the marks, because teaching a homogeneous class that has been well taught, that is getting good marks, that’s not such an achievement,” she explained.

Similarly, Bloch added that more district involvement was needed in provinces to ensure a more substantial and supported education base for learners.

“The district officials and the Members of Executive Council in that province need to make sure that the schools are equalising, and that they’re paying attention to the school that’s doing badly,” said Bloch.