Thursday, October 29, 2009

Musings on education in South Africa.

This last week I have read a few articles related to the schooling system in South Africa.

Most notably are the following:

Schools of shame.

Textbooks for all schools

School of shame: no pupils

Principal puts his all into matric pupils

Zuma lays into education

I am going to make a lot of controversial statements is this posting, but to my defense, they are based on experience and observations.

In order to properly address this discussion, I have to give a little background on my family and our move to the USA.

There are myself, my wife, and the two boys. And this discussion will mainly focus on the schooling of the two.

The eldest “Ouboet” is fourteen years older than his younger sibling “Youngster”

When we moved to the USA, Ouboet was nineteen, has started to work already, in other words, has finished his schooling in the then white school system, and Youngster was five, yet to start his schooling.

This was in 1997, just a few years into the new democracy of South Africa.

When we got here, we enrolled Ouboet into UCLA, to get certified in American English, and then enrolled him into a local college, where he got an associates degree in information technology.

He eventually had to go back to South Africa, due circumstances outside our control, ie his age and the immigration laws of this country. He is currently in the process to get his green card, but it will take at least five more years to get him here.

In the meantime he is trying to survive in South Africa alone. He has no immediate family there, and believe it or not, he is unemployed. His American schooling credential does not count for anything in South Africa, because he is white.

This brings us to Youngster, who has started his schooling process here, and is currently a senior in a very good public high school. He is going to ASU next year. He is doing extremely well, is in the top ten percent of his class.

Now I can start with the real meat of this posting.

I know that the USA is seen as a “rich” country that can affort basically anything. This however is not the reason that the public schooling system here is far superior to anything that are currently in South Africa.

Every single American that pays taxes pays for education in some form or manner, either through sales tax, normal income tax, or extra special taxes based on neighborhoods.

No money is spared when it gets to education.

Even now, with the recession, the States and the Federal government makes sure in their budget exercises that they not lower the education standards. Yes, it might happen that some teachers are laid of, and the classes gets bigger, but the core of the education system stays intact.

Here are some of the things that, in my mind, absolutely stand out, that you would not find in South Africa.

  • School education in public schools is free.
  • Transport to and from school is free.
  • Handbooks are free, and of the highest quality.
  • Parents have a huge say in the administration and running of the schools.
  • No school uniforms.
  • And believe it or not, a very high level of discipline.
I am, for sake of my youngest son, very glad that we have moved to this country.

He is getting a far superior education to what he would have got if we have stayed in South Africa.

It is, from the articles linked in at the top of this post, very apparent that the schooling system in South Africa is broken.

Who should get the blame for this?

You do not have to look very far.

A culture of laziness, and entitlement, at the lowest level has created this debacle.

And the ANC government has created this culture, with them as examples, and with what they invest in schooling.

In the last 15 years, they rather squander money on expensive crap, than spend it where it will make a difference, for instance education, schools, etc.


From the parents, the pupils, the teachers, the adminstrators, the government, everybody, is to blame.


I cannot believe that the parents can take crap like this, and not do something about it.


8 Opinion(s):

Vanilla Ice said...

I need to add to this article.

I was educated in South Africa, prior to 1994. I also did some University studies before and after 1994, and I have done some studies in Canada. The most obvious benchmark is UNISA. I studied with them in the 80's, and it was fairly tough. I then did some more stuff with them recently, and it was hellishly easy, and my IQ definitely hasn't gone up.

I too have a child in the public schooling system in Canada, which is similar to the USA.

I will tell you outright; prior to 1994 the level of schooling we received at public schools in South Africa was world class. We just didn't know it. Thereafter, apart from a few schools and the expensive private schools, the average South African school has undoubtedly declined.

Canadian public schooling is free, including buses, books and other goodies. They do not wear uniforms, which irks me, but generally the schooling is good. Extra mural activities are not a big thing, which is unlike SA. My child is 6, and she can already read and write a lot better than Julius Malema.

The style of teaching is very different, which I am still trying to get a grip on. They are very strict on security. You cannot gain access to the school or the grounds without being confronted by a teacher.

I have also lectured to South African students. I will tell you that the majority of students are a disgrace, and it is hard to grasp how they managed to get a bachelors degree. That said, Canadians are very well educated, but they lack the ability to critically think.

So, to arrive at a point. It is easy to get admission to a University in South Africa. If you cannot emigrate, for whatever reason, enrol at UNISA and do a degree. Then use that to emigrate. Do not study too far though. An Honours degree isn't recognised and a Masters is frowned upon; actually anything acquired in Africa is viewed with suspicion. DOn't believe the hype that SA qualifications are internationally recognised. Bollocks. Even the professionals need to be reaccredited. I have a foreign MBA, for example. It may not be as good as a UCT MBA, but is certainly more widely accepted.

Islandshark said...

I agree, VI.

I also chose foreign MBA route as opposed to South African. You are correct in that most SA qualifications count for little abroad.

The schooling system in SA was definitely world class prior to the 1990's. It is actually amazing if you think about the class of infrastructure and services we had in SA and quite shocking to see where it has gone...

Anonymous said...

I too matriculated pre-1994 (1987) and if I compare the schooling my boys received whilst in SA to what I went through then it didn't compare in any shape,way or form. We left SA in 2007 for Oz and my kids were definitely behind the other kids in class (they were 12 and 13 at the time). My kids didn't know how to write properly (I don't think they'd ever written an essay in SA); never did orals etc., all core language elements in my day. We did research projects every term and my kids did them in "groups" which taught them nothing but how to rely on others in their group. They are now on par with the kids here but still don't really read or write properly - I hope this corrects eventually. My opinion on the state of SA education is as follows:
1. The blacks in government are the stupid ones (like seeks like) and therefore don't understand the value and importance of having an educated population; therefore, no money or effort was/is put into education. They are now realising the error in their ways as they sit with millions of unskilled "workers", trying to replace lost white skills.
2. The blacks, in their haste to expunge anything to do with the previous government, threw out the cirriculum that was in place as quick as possible. Eventually, they had to also dumb it down even further as the black kids continued to fail (not having Bantu education to blame anymore).
3. As a result of all this dumbing down, they now have a whole generation of lazy, illiterate kids who will rape, steal and kill - the next generation of criminals.

Zuma has now said the following:
"Schools and local government are not delivering the results that South Africans need to overcome the recession and the ravages of apartheid..". He is STILL blaming Apartheid for the ANCs failings and will continue to do so until "Jesus comes". I see no hope that SA will ever recover from the last 15 years - they are on a road to hell and anyone who holds out hope is a dreamer.

Anonymous said...

Well on the subject of education...... im a bit old, took "advise" from critical sites, saying u had all the chances of getting a degree, what were u doing in the last 10 years bla bla...
So i did it, unfortunately i went to a "Spanish" country, more due to wanting to specialize in a specific field.... I slaughtered everyone in site with my 1989 matric education, it was a massacre, the laaities were shellshocked by the brutal beating i dished in their own backyard... naturally i became "enemy of the state" overnight. The last straw came with their arrogance (of campus management) told em where to shaft their 3rd world education, and right now moving to London, yep i got a Euro passport. We are considered home students and i pay less than what i was paying, lesson learnt, dont waste time in 3rd worlds, thats why they are stuck where they are, nothing will beat the English world, you SA taught me right.... want to be hardegat welcome!

Anonymous said...

Here in UnZud I found it the other way around to the USA.

Now after a decade I am starting to think we may have done the kids a disservice to move here, but then again I don't know how it deteriorated since we left. Was pretty bad then, 45 per class, 95% black who can't speak English.

They are dumbing down the school system here, and mmainstream everyone, so the progress is a good as the slowest child in class. Kids just get promoted on to the next year on untested judgement rulings, and the results can be seen in the general population, a very large% of the locals can't spell to save their bacon. Grammar and punctuation is also terrible.

Much like VI mentioned about Canada the same issue here exist, total lack of critical and analytical thinking. Just not taught at school. I guess that is why it seems that common sense isn't so common over here.

NZ I think copies/copied plenty from Canada, even the money is printed there. So it is possible that the follow the Canadian education structure slavishly, therefore the same symptoms.

As for uniform, I don't mind some sort of durable affordable uniform, but it has gone very much the same way as SA did, expensive blazers etc. I suspect with all the Saffers who arrived over the last year many of them were so eager to impose themselves on the local school boards, and got this SA money making racket imposed on the rest of us. I really object paying 3x the money for a school shirt compared to my work shirts.

Doberman said...

Pretty much the same in Oz. The primary schools' standards are worked to the lowest common denominator but the govt has recognised the problem and instituted a tougher curriculum this year.

High school level is much better, the standards are high, the teaching is excellent (at least the school my boy will be going to and where two of his cousins have been) is among the best in Oz. They do wear uniforms in Oz which is also a plus. I'm pretty happy with the standard of education (at least in Brisbane).

Dachshund said...

I experienced the same thing with Unisa at post graduate level in 2001 i.e. the course was ridiculously easy with 70% of the students achieving "distinctions". Total waste of time and money.

Why bother with Unisa at all when there at better options at the University of Cambridge, or of London? If you're young and white you're going to leave anyhow, so emigrate with a qualification that's at least worth the paper it's printed on.

Vanilla Ice said...

Dachshund, you make a very valid point. Rather go directly to a foreign university, like Monash. I was thinking from a cost perspective. UNISA is cheap.