When you fail a child you fail the nation
OBE has been a monumental cock-up by the ANC
A DECADE AGO – when a trendy, leftwing approach to teaching children known as Outcomes Based Education (OBE) was introduced in South Africa – your ageing correspondent (who even then was ageing) weighed in against this foolish experiment with an education system that had produced generations of competent, literate and numerate people.
Proof of the quality of that traditional education is evident all over the world where SA emigrants are energetically sought by employers in every area of human endeavour, from accounting to architecture, law, medicine, engineering and so on. Matriculants from that system won Nobel prizes, ran large companies, sat on high courts, created great fortunes and occupied high seats of learning in developed societies throughout the globe.
Granted, of course, is that the majority of society was denied access to the level of education available to those of lighter complexion – and that was a sad, regrettable and evil matter.
But it was mindless, misguided and destructive when social engineers such as former education ministers Sibusiso Bengu (1994-1999) and Kader Asmal (1999-2004) sought to impose a faddish system, discredited wherever it’s been tried worldwide, instead of retaining what was good of what we had – and that was a great deal – and adapting tried and tested methods to the advantage of our younger generations.
In other mindless and idiotic steps taken in the name of transformation, generations of experienced, dedicated teachers were lured or persuaded into retirement while, to add insult to injury, teacher training colleges were closed in yet another of those Stalinist attempts to centralise everything we do under one authority.
It seems these neo-Marxists just can’t help themselves. Yes, apartheid was evil. But it can’t be denied that for whites there was education of a world standard available in our public and private schools. That heritage should have been extended to the majority of our people, together with the maintenance and enhancement of institutions such as teacher training colleges.
The very foundations of our education system have been destroyed by the African National Congress administration. Teachers, by definition, are dedicated public servants. They hardly enter the profession in the search for power and wealth. They do so out of a commitment to serve our young people.
They were thrown out of the system by the ANC because they were white. It’s as simple as that. And what was then done was the implementation of a fatuous, expensive, unworkable system that the bulk of our teachers were unable to deal with. This is what your ageing correspondent wrote in the Sunday Times a decade ago: “Everything can be improved, including teaching methods. OBE is, however, not an attempt to improve teaching methods but a threat to those values on which our democracies have been built.
“OBE seeks to replace the notion that the individual is greater than the State, that we are responsible for our actions and that individual initiative and hard work are habits to be encouraged in the child. It places group participation above individual initiative, groupthink above independent thought.”
At the core of this pernicious scheme is that kids will set their own agenda as to what they learn and how rapidly. The teacher is merely the facilitator.
Robert Holland, an American scholar, put it this way: “It’s now ‘appropriate’ to let children… meander from one multi-age, cut-and-paste learning centre to another, picking up reading and other basic skills by osmosis while exercising their ‘higherorder thinking skills’. When a child decides he wants to know how to spell or sound out a word, if ever, he will ask the teacher – and not before. Teachers no longer direct the learning show; they are bit players called facilitators. The children are the stars.”
Thus we produce generations of kids with amazingly high self-esteem who are largely illiterate and innumerate. OBE reeks of that childish call once heard from young political activists: Pass one, pass all. In OBE it’s accepted that everyone will emerge with roughly the same outcomes. Some might take longer to get there, but all will arrive at the same destination. What rot!
Now an ANC document leaked to the press calls for a “review” of OBE and perhaps its “death certificate”. About bloody time, is all your ageing correspondent has to say.
The redoubtable Mamphela Ramphele, former MD of the World Bank and UCT vice-chancellor, says OBE has “failed our children”. And when you fail the children you fail the nation. Nowhere is that more evident than in the shameful fact our children rank last in the world in every international mathematics and literacy test.
This has been a monumental cock-up by the ANC. The damage inflicted will take years to repair and it goes without saying that those unfortunate kids who were put through this asinine process will suffer from it for the rest of their lives.