The facts speak for themselves – South Africa’s cohort matric pass rate – the percentage of learners in grade 2 who pass matric 11 years later – is 42.2%. And although 70.7% of students who wrote the 2015 National Senior Certificate examinations passed, many feel that the pass rate shouldn’t be celebrated, as it represents a watered-down qualification which is not respected in the workplace.
University of the Free State vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen is one of them. In a recent Sunday Times column, he said South Africa’s disregard for competence is illustrated by the way government policies have dumbed down the school system since the 1990s.
How to improve the education system
In a Facebook post titled: ‘Ten things I would do first if I were your Minister of Schools’, Jansen suggested ways to improve the South African education system:
- Stop the circus: no more announcement of matric results. I would instead announce the results of our investment in pre-school education programmes – how well prepared are our pre-schoolers for formal education?
- Fire all the deployed officials in provinces and districts. Officials welcome to reapply on the basis of proven competence – party loyalties will be irrelevant.
- Replace fired officials with coaches and mentors (not inspectors) for every teacher and principal who work alongside staff as colleagues. These coaches and mentors must have a track record of running successful schools or achieving high results in the subjects for which they are responsible.
- Appoint an ombudsperson for every SGB to root out corruption in teacher and head appointments.
- Ensure every child has a textbook in every subject within three months, or somebody loses his job.
- Abolish the ANAs with immediate effect and assess every three years in the most vulnerable schools only.
- Increase the salaries of teachers on one criterion only – that the children in the poorest schools show steady increases in achievement scores.
- No teacher will be hired with less than a Master’s degree in teaching by 2018 and this status will be reflected in salary scales highly competitive with the private sector.
- Teachers will show up in every class every day and teach. Two strikes (misses) and you’re out, unless there is a certified medical certificate which can be cross-checked for dishonesty.
- Teachers given three months off every three years to improve their professional qualifications.
The post received 1180 shares, and a number of comments urging Prof Jansen to run for Minister of Education. Some commenters pointed out that points Jansen made are idealistic, but they certainly do provide food for thought for educational leaders.