The many wrongs of the right to ed­u­ca­tion

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion - Jackie Car­roll Jackie Car­roll is the chief ex­ec­u­tive and co-founder of Me­dia Works.

Hu­man Rights Day of­fers us the chance to as­sess the Con­sti­tu­tion.

It's a day on which we con­sider whether this pi­o­neer­ing doc­u­ment is liv­ing up to its prom­ises, weigh­ing up the ways in which it is serv­ing us and the ways in which it is fail­ing.

An eval­u­a­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion's right to ed­u­ca­tion re­veals stark re­sults.

It is a dif­fi­cult re­port card to read.

In re­cent years, the gov­ern­ment has taken im­por­tant strides in im­prov­ing South Africa’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, of that there is no doubt.

Sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing has been al­lo­cated to en­sur­ing im­proved ac­cess, and to good ef­fect: there are more chil­dren in school now than ever be­fore.

More learn­ers are grad­u­at­ing with a ma­tric, too.

For the past eight years, the Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate pass rate has con­sis­tently stayed above the 70% mark.

At 78.2%, the 2018 pass rate was 3.1% higher than that of 2017.

But these num­bers be­lie the re­al­i­ties on the ground.

With many schools still bat­tling in­ad­e­quate teacher train­ing, in­fra­struc­ture, re­sources and tech­nol­ogy, the rise in the num­ber of learn­ers has had an im­pact on the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion they re­ceive.

And while more learn­ers are leav­ing with a ma­tric, this has been fu­elled by sub­ject choices and the ad­just­ment of stan­dards that leave them lack­ing in the knowl­edge and skills they need to en­ter ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions or the for­mal econ­omy.

To grad­u­ate with a higher cer­tifi­cate – the low­est ma­tric level – learn­ers only need to ob­tain 40% in their home lan­guage, 40% in two other sub­jects, and 30% in four other sub­jects.

The gov­ern­ment has also re­cently an­nounced the pos­si­ble in­tro­duc­tion of a fourth level, a Gen­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Cer­tifi­cate. This be­low-Grade 12 qual­i­fi­ca­tion is in­tended to fa­cil­i­tate the move be­tween school and col­lege.

In re­al­ity, it might fur­ther in­hibit learn­ers with an­other poorly re­garded piece of pa­per.

In this quan­tity-over-qual­ity en­vi­ron­ment where stan­dards are ar­guably be­ing com­pro­mised, the value of the South African ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion has been com­pro­mised for some time.

To­day, many com­pa­nies are re­luc­tant to ac­cept a ma­tric at face value.

Lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy as­sess­ments are be­com­ing com­mon com­po­nents of re­cruit­ment and screen­ing pro­cesses. Uni­ver­si­ties have been run­ning these as­sess­ments among ap­pli­cant first-year stu­dents for years.

But there are al­ter­na­tives to a ma­tric, and the for­mal econ­omy is largely at fault for fail­ing to recog­nise their value.

The Na­tional Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Frame­work’s Level 4 is one such equiv­a­lent qual­i­fi­ca­tion, as are var­i­ous tech­ni­cal N cour­ses.

In many sec­tors, these cer­tifi­cates are of greater rel­e­vance as they in­clude prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Busi­nesses whose en­try re­quire­ments sim­ply stip­u­late the need for a ma­tric rule out ap­pli­cants with worth­while al­ter­na­tives in hand.

The right to a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, in­clud­ing adult ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion is care­fully en­shrined in Sec­tion 29 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

But those who don’t man­age to com­plete ma­tric are in a worse po­si­tion than those who do.

Adults try­ing to achieve the equiv­a­lent of a Grade 9 qual- ifi­ca­tion or higher are re­ferred to adult ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing (AET) col­leges, as man­dated above.

These col­leges, how­ever, rarely have the fund­ing they need to be ef­fec­tive.

Many bat­tle with lack of in­fra­struc­ture and face con­tin­u­ous evic­tions, have in­suf­fi­cient and out-of-date re­sources, and de­pend on min­i­mal ac­cess to teach­ers

These adult learn­ers also tend to be caught be­tween the bud­getary and bu­reau­cratic spats that take place be­tween the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion and the Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion.

While a ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the for­mer, AET learn­ers tech­ni­cally fall un­der the lat­ter.

As each depart­ment tries to re­lin­quish cus­tody, many learn­ers sim­ply fall through the cracks.

The gov­ern­ment is not un­aware of the chal­lenges at hand. Of the six the­matic ar­eas the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion ad­dresses in its work, five deal with im­prov­ing qual­ity.

There are plans un­der way to rein­vent com­mu­nity col­leges and to pro­vide ad­di­tional sup­port to the tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing (TVET) in­sti­tu­tions that equip stu­dents with use­ful skills.

As these ef­forts con­tinue, di­a­logue be­tween ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, both sec­ondary and ter­tiary, gov­ern­ment and the for­mal econ­omy also needs to be im­proved.

Are there learn­ers who would ben­e­fit from a ma­tric al­terna- tive?

These learn­ers need to be guided on their op­tions.

Are there tech­ni­cal po­si­tions that cor­po­rate is strug­gling to fill?

This in­for­ma­tion should be fil­tered to schools, com­mu­nity col­leges and TVETs.

In ad­di­tion, sub­ject choice coun­selling needs to be im­proved at Grade 9 level, at the point where learn­ers are se­lect­ing the sub­jects that will ei­ther broaden or limit their ter­tiary and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

By the time many learn­ers reach ma­tric, they are stuck with sub­jects in which they ei­ther have no ap­ti­tude or no in­ter­est – the eco­nomic con­se­quences of this are real and dire.

The in­ten­tions are there, and the plans are in place.

All that re­mains is to in­vest in and im­ple­ment the strate­gies and sys­tems that have al­ready been de­vel­oped.

The goal post shift­ing that has de­fined the past few years is pre­vent­ing any goals be­ing scored for the Con­sti­tu­tional rights of our chil­dren.

... the value of the SA ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion has been com­pro­mised for some time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.