When you fail a child you fail the na­tion

OBE has been a mon­u­men­tal cock-up by the ANC

Finweek English Edition - - Cover - STEPHEN MUL­HOL­LAND stephenm@fin­week.co.za

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.