How can we radically change our education system to give our students the best opportunities for an excellent education in South Africa?
I am confident that the majority of our teachers want our children to succeed in school. My experience working in schools has shown me that most teachers are dedicated to providing their students with the best possible education.
Undoubtedly, we had the best opportunity for change in 1994 when the country recognised the need for a unified education system. That was the time we should have made radical changes to the system.
We should have constructed a meaningful non-racial education system. This would have involved integrating all schools and undertaking a significant physical reconstruction of school buildings. Teachers should have been given the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications, and those who did not meet the necessary requirements should have been encouraged to pursue alternative careers.
According to numerous circulating reports, only 20% of schools in South Africa are performing academically. How can we change this?
I suggest that individual schools take the initiative and make every effort to achieve the best results they can. However, I believe that the only way to truly transform the system is for schools and the government to work together to bring about these changes. Unfortunately, the current situation in schools makes this approach difficult.
I suggest that you start in your own classroom at the school where you teach. As you gain experience, share it with teachers at various levels, including classroom teachers, heads of department, deputies, and the principal.
Teacher unions should bring teachers together to ensure that the highest standards are maintained in schools. Neighbouring schools should collaborate to improve education.
At our current pace of change, we will continue to have a majority of poor schools and a minority of rich schools. The situation appears bleak. Parents who want to give their children a good education will pay exorbitant school fees to ensure that their children can attend universities.
Universities are not making much progress in increasing student enrolment. The education of poor children is at risk in our schools and tertiary institutions. The outlook for education in South Africa is very bleak. However, we must remain hopeful that we in South Africa can make the bold changes necessary for education to reach all students.
Those in education will need to be more outspoken to bring about the necessary changes. We must remain courageous to improve the dire situation in our schools and tertiary education. In South African schools, the following factors contribute to positive change in education:
Teachers' commitment to providing students with the best possible education
Ongoing efforts by parent communities to ensure that their children have access to the best physical school resources
The broadest possible curriculum. At the high school I taught at, we introduced Engineering Graphics and Design, and the teacher was responsible for sending many students to universities to study engineering.
Encouraging teachers to continuously improve their teaching qualifications.
I encourage schools to pursue this endeavour, as it is one of the most rewarding experiences. I am proud that the school I taught at had the foresight to provide students with the best possible education. The gratitude you receive when your former students see you is an unforgettable experience.
* Brian Isaacs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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