Every year the nation hyperventilates around the NSC results at our high schools and the ANA in our primary schools. We dissect, classify and table the performances of our schools ad nauseam. We look inward at support services, intra-state agency and community-based structures' efficiency and effectiveness, and grapple with the parameters that may have turned a result positively or negatively and often cannot bed down how schools have improved or not: we good at the academic jargon of schooling but thin on detailed plans that realizes shifts in schools: our experts take comfort in commentary such as "it's complex; multidimensional". And that's not wrong, but no one can unpack how individual learners achieved because the system is often not geared to notice the individual.
We celebrate with gusto learners that achieve "bachelors degree" status at Grade 12 level and are beside ourselves when primary school learners achieve 50% benchmarks. And we hang our collective heads when time-and-time again we come last in international and inter-country comparisons around learner achievement. It's a major frustration.
I've personally had enough of celebrating average as excellence. 50% benchmarks imply that learners do not know half the work. Yet we celebrate this; we've actually dumbed down expectations, and guess what? We can't even as a collective achieve this. In 2013 a R200 billion national education budget only realised 40% of matriculants getting an average pass, with a now consistent drop-out rate around 50%. And this expenditure excludes private household income spent on education. And in 2014 we will spend even more money.
We must raise the bar! Yes, I can hear the cacophony of noise that poor kids have backlogs, the psycho-social issues that affect families and children, the economy and our political legacy, but I also know our birth rate is slowing; more people in South Africa are dying than being born. Our children must compete against children from India, the Chinese, Brazilians, the Far East belt and our neighbours and I contend that they don't stand a chance at 50%. Let us make 50% the bare minimum expectation. Let's get to work better, smarter and more collaboratively, coupled with a strong belief that our children CAN achieve. Let's not condemn them because they poor, hungry and sometimes dirty.
Let's take a lesson from sport. The absolute top achievers often come from the most challenging childhoods. Those environments didn't determine the limits of their potential. Instead, coaches with sharp eyes and instinct recognize the diamonds-in-the-rough, nurture and nourish them and create platforms for excellence to show itself. Should we not be doing the same in education with a MINIMUM standard of 50%? Because average will never be excellent ... asked those who don't get the medals in sport!
What do you think? Do leave a comment