The two factors responsible for the dismal failure of basic education in South Africa are the destructive role played by trade unions, SADTU in particular, and the disregard for the value of mother-tongue instruction.
Seeing as tertiary education depends on the foundation laid by basic education, higher education is clearly also doomed to fail at the cost of the South African youth, says Dr Pieter Mulder, FF Plus member of parliament.
In today’s parliamentary debate on the importance of good education in developing countries, Dr Mulder shared shocking statistics, which compares South Africa with the rest of the African continent, to emphasise that our country’s educational system is flawed.
With all the resources at our disposal, South Africa is far behind several other African countries in poorer parts of the continent. A shocking 27% of South African pupils who have attended school for six years cannot read, compared to only 4% in Tanzania and 19% in Zimbabwe.
After five years of school, about half of the learners cannot work out that 24 divided by three is eight. Only 37% of children starting school in South Africa go on to pass the matriculation exam and ultimately only 4% earn a degree. (Please see Dr Mulder’s full speech below):
What can we learn from wise people in the past on today’s topic?
Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. He said:
If your plan is for 1 year, plant rice;
If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees;
If your plan is for 100 years, educate children.
Our educational system is in trouble. An emotional debate shouting at each other will not solve our problems. Let’s try and get solutions from some cold facts.
In a league table of education systems drawn up in 2015 by the OECD countries, South Africa ranks 75th out of 76. In one of the latest studies of Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS), a test sat by 580,000 pupils in 57 countries, South Africa was near the bottom of its various rankings.
With all our resources, we are behind several African countries in poorer parts of the continent. A shocking 27% of South African pupils who have attended school for six years cannot read, compared with 4% in Tanzania and 19% in Zimbabwe. After five years of school about half cannot work out that 24 divided by three is eight. Only 37% of children starting school in South Africa go on to pass the matriculation exam; just 4% earn a degree.
There are still about 500 schools built from mud, mainly in the Eastern Cape.
And yet money is not the reason for the malaise. Few countries spend as much to so little effect. In South Africa public spending on education is 6.4% of GDP; the average share in EU countries is 4.8%.
I believe there are two main reasons for all this:
Central to our problems and failures is the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU).
Lack of computers, lack of science laboratories, etc. are often given as reason for our educational problems. Because of these factors I have heard of many dysfunctional schools as the reason for our problems.
Sir, I have never seen a dysfunctional school, but I have seen and met many dysfunctional principals. In any normal situation such a principal would have been disciplined and fired – but because of SADTU and our unions it is almost impossible to get rid of such a lazy and dysfunctional principle.
In Limpopo I can take you to schools with no laboratories or a computer centre but with very good matric result. Why? Because of a capable and functional principal.
The role of SADTU was laid bare in a report published in May 2016 by a team led by John Volmink, an academic. It found “widespread” corruption and abuse. This included teachers paying union officials for plum jobs.
More important than money is a lack of accountability and the quality of most teachers.
Sir is it correct that six of the senior civil servants running education are SADTU members?
The universal principle of the superior value of mother-tongue instruction. Dr Neville Alexander, ex Robben Islander, demonstrates in various articles how disadvantageous it is for children, who do not have English as their home language, to become 'slaves of English' when they go to school. To compel such children to receive instruction in English from their earliest years at school is not even a good way of teaching them English!
This is not a political argument but an educational one.
Address the problems with SADTU and mother tongue education and see the improvement in our Education results.
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