Teach­ing chaos

Finweek English Edition - - Letters - ACA­DEMIC

THERE ARE abil­i­ties one is born with and oth­ers that are learned. That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween na­ture and nur­ture. The ANC em­pha­sises the lat­ter and thinks the wel­fare of South Africa will be pro­moted with un­hin­dered ac­cess to free higher ed­u­ca­tion. The truth is that you can’t teach a snail to play the pi­ano.

What we need is a process that will con­tinue for decades. School teach­ing must im­prove. The start­ing point is that bet­ter teach­ers must be trained and ap­pointed while in­ef­fi­cient ones must be dis­missed. That will even­tu­ally lead to bet­ter candidates en­ter­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion.

The qual­ity of higher ed­u­ca­tion is de­ter­mined by pri­mary and secondary ed­u­ca­tion. It’s just fool­ish to have two Min­is­ters of Ed­u­ca­tion. A sin­gle min­is­ter with (if nec­es­sary) two deputies – one for schools and one for higher ed­u­ca­tion – would be bet­ter.

It’s also im­por­tant for the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion to be as non-ide­o­log­i­cal as pos­si­ble. A Com­mu­nist is ex­actly the op­po­site of what’s re­quired here. Ac­cord­ing to the Nz­i­mande plan, uni­ver­sity en­trance stan­dards will be low­ered. Pres­sure on achieve­ment will be eased, be­cause stu­dents will be spending their time there free.

Is the cur­rent uni­ver­sity sit­u­a­tion not bad enough? Note what the coun­cil of the Uni­ver­sity of Stel­len­bosch de­cided on 21 Fe­bru­ary 2009: As part of its vi­sion for 2015 it wants 84% of stu­dents to pass, 34% must be non-white and 40% must be post­grad­u­ate. Is this kind of ma­nip­u­la­tion not de­struc­tive of aca­demic val­ues?

In or­der to achieve a higher “suc­cess rate” among non-whites, the ad­mis­sion and pass­ing stan­dards will nec­es­sar­ily have to be low­ered; more so, be­cause the Uni­ver­sity of Stel­len­bosch has de­cided to com­mit it­self as far as pos­si­ble to ap­point­ing non-whites as lec­tur­ers. A uni­ver­sity that openly re­cruits stu­dents and lec­tur­ers on the ba­sis of race and sex rather than aca­demic merit has no cred­i­ble fu­ture as an aca­demic in­sti­tute.

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