One of the fi­nal­ists in a com­pe­ti­tion en­tered by pupils across Cape Town

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THE Al-Ikhlaas Academia Li­brary and Re­source Cen­tre ran an es­say con­test in which pupils from across Cape Town par­tic­i­pated. This is the fourth es­say of the 12 fi­nal­ists that we are pub­lish­ing ev­ery Thurs­day. ● To­day’s es­say is by Em­lin Hendricks from South Penin­sula High School. Topic: En­hanc­ing lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy in the present age:

THE stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion in South Africa is one of the low­est in the world. Stud­ies con­ducted by the OECD (Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment) coun­tries and the Tims (trends in In­ter­na­tional Math­e­mat­ics and Science Study) showed South Africa is ranked as one of the poor­est coun­tries in terms of ed­u­ca­tion.

We are ranked 75th out of a ta­ble of 76 rel­a­tively rich coun­tries re­gard­ing the stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion. In a test in­volv­ing 580 000 pupils from 57 coun­tries, we are ranked near the bot­tom in many cat­e­gories.

These cat­e­gories in­clude ba­sic maths, and read­ing and writ­ing abil­ity. The ques­tion this leaves ev­ery­one ask­ing, is “why?”.

In spite of in­vest­ing so much money (more than most coun­tries in the world) into ed­u­ca­tion, it seems as though South Africa does not get im­proved re­sults and pos­i­tive feed­back form schools across the coun­try.

Cur­rently, I feel in or­der to im­prove lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy, we have to look at the staff and teach­ers at the schools. Whether they are male or fe­male, the sub­ject teach­ers have to be well ed­u­cated them­selves and have to be well qual­i­fied in their spe­cialised sub­ject.

This is specif­i­cally di­rected to teach­ers in the more im­por­tant fields of Math­e­mat­ics and English. This en­sures that teach­ers can thor­oughly pre­pare stu­dents and en­sure that they un­der­stand the work. Also, em­ploy­ing more teach­ers can re­duce the work­load and al­low for smaller classes.

Smaller classes al­low for more oneon-one in­ter­ac­tion with the teacher and stu­dents so that stu­dents strug­gling with a cer­tain topic can get more as­sis­tance from the teacher to grasp a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing.

An in­no­va­tive idea for im­prov­ing lessons is mak­ing them more fun and in­ter­ac­tive and have shorter pe­ri­ods spread out over each day, so that learn­ers stay in­ter­ested.

In ad­di­tion, in or­der for teach­ers to stay rel­e­vant and modern with the rest of the world in terms of teach­ing method­ol­ogy, teach­ers should go to train­ing work­shops to learn new meth­ods and styles of teach­ing that will best suit the cal­i­bre of learner they are teach­ing.

Dif­fer­ent stu­dents grow up and live in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments. Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent out­look on life and some may ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent things to oth­ers.

Stu­dents who come from im­pov­er­ished, abu­sive and gang-rid­dled com­mu­ni­ties and ar­eas may be more sus­cep­ti­ble to fall­ing into the same cat­e­gory as their par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers be­cause some­one dis­re­gards them and says they won’t amount to any­thing.

It is rare that chil­dren grow­ing up in those sit­u­a­tions are mo­ti­vated to make it by work­ing hard at their ed­u­ca­tion, be­cause this is what they are taught from a young age.

This is why it is im­por­tant to change the mind­set of chil­dren liv­ing in these ar­eas. The gov­ern­ment and busi­nesses have to in­vest in chil­dren in these ar­eas and cre­ate more ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres and pro­grammes to help those who are strug­gling in sub­jects such as Maths and English.

I be­lieve that this will im­prove the over­all stan­dards of nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy in the coun­try if ed­u­ca­tion is made avail­able to all chil­dren.

An ad­di­tional fac­tor which can help is hav­ing li­braries and com­puter labs at schools in the coun­try or at in­sti­tu­tions in the com­mu­nity. This can as­sist in im­prov­ing com­puter lit­er­acy, which I be­lieve will be very in­flu­en­tial in the near fu­ture.

Hav­ing li­braries and com­puter labs in schools gives stu­dents more op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn in dif­fer­ent ways, and is a great re­source for do­ing tasks and as­sign­ments. If stu­dents are given a des­ig­nated time in the li­brary and lab at least once or twice a week, it will give them more of an op­por­tu­nity and mo­ti­vate them to read, which will im­prove lit­er­acy.

In con­clu­sion, I think that there is a lot of work to be done in the coun­try re­gard­ing the en­hance­ment of nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy, but if we set goals and work to­wards these goals, then over time we will be­gin to see re­sults. The youth of South Africa are full of raw tal­ent that needs to be nur­tured to en­sure a bright fu­ture.

EM­LIN Hendricks and South Penin­sula High School English teacher Mark Frank.

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