Does our school­ing sys­tem make the grade?

CityPress - - Voices - Alta Gre­eff voices@ city­press. co. za

How can our school­ing sys­tem help young peo­ple try­ing to find their way in a world that is chang­ing at a pace faster than at any time in our history?

To en­able pupils to flour­ish in the 21st cen­tury, there is a great con­sen­sus among many ed­u­ca­tional re­searchers all around the world: the youth will need a dif­fer­ent set of skills. These skills are well de­fined by many projects and ed­u­ca­tion­al­ists, and, with­out over­sim­pli­fy­ing it, they boil down to the abil­ity to use knowl­edge to solve prob­lems, to work col­lec­tively, to think cre­atively and to re­flect on their own think­ing.

De­spite some won­der­ful tech­nol­ogy in class­rooms, chil­dren will not learn by them­selves. Deep, mean­ing­ful learn­ing still re­mains hard work. Teach­ers in South Africa and all over the world need to be smarter than ever be­fore. They need to un­der­stand how learn­ing takes place and how we can im­prove stu­dents’ abil­ity, and de­sire, to keep on learn­ing.

An all-im­por­tant ques­tion to ask is: what is val­ued in the class­room? If teach­ers, par­ents and school author­i­ties only value and re­ward mem­o­ri­sa­tion, the chances are slim that pupils will ever do more than this – and it is a “skill” that is un­likely to be re­warded in the real world and, more im­por­tantly, the work­ing world.

It is com­monly ac­cepted that “70% to 75% of the jobs in 10 years’ time have not been cre­ated yet”. So, we need to pre­pare our pupils for this un­charted, un­known world. If we dis­re­gard Grade R, pupils in South Africa who fin­ish Grade 12 spend about 10 000 hours in class­rooms. Mal­colm Glad­well, in his book Out­liers, claims that 10 000 hours is the min­i­mum amount of time hu­man be­ings need to spend on some­thing to be­come ex­perts at it. What do our chil­dren have to show for 10 000 hours in class­rooms? Is it enough to pass a Grade 12 ex­am­i­na­tion, even with a few dis­tinc­tions, or is there more that we can do to make the fu­ture a lit­tle brighter? Gre­eff is head of the Curro Cen­tre for Ed­u­ca­tion Ex­cel­lence. This is the first of a se­ries of

five ar­ti­cles on 21st-cen­tury learn­ing

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