Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
School admission is a sensitive issue within the discourse of inclusion and exclusion as it relates to admissions.
Some of the factors that are central to this discourse relate to pass rates, economics, class, racial integration, school infrastructure, school fees, school rankings and proximity.
For example, schools that want to maintain their rankings as top-achieving schools would naturally want to privilege academic ranking as their selection criteria.
Some schools that fear being |labelled as underperforming may also want to privilege academic ranking as one of their core criteria for pupil admissions.
Some schools want to maintain a perceived high standard of education and need the financial resources to maintain their perceived quality education and may make the high cost of attending the school as a core admissions criterion.
From the perspective of parents, several factors contribute to their decision about which school they wish to send their children to.
These include proximity, affordability, the status of the school, the educational and curriculum offerings of the school, and the school’s social recognition.
All of these factors address consequential issues for schools, parents and pupils, and should not be downplayed in the admissions policies of schools.
There is, however, a third dimension to schooling in SA, and this relates to the social and political aspects of school admissions policies relating to, among others, human rights, social cohesion, redress and social integration.
This means that a simple issue of school admission becomes a complex one – or, rather, a force field, where, depending on the strength of the forces affecting admissions, different responses, with diverse and consequential outcomes, can arise.
This means that, whatever stance is taken, or whichever direction is followed, there will be consequences for all.
The new admissions policy for KZN schools recently introduced for implementation next year is in response to concerns raised by all three sectoral forces – the state (political), the school (structural) and society (recipient).
The state argues that, within a human rights discourse, pupils are denied their right to choose the schools that they would want to access.
It further argues that racial integration within schools is moving at a snail’s pace, hence the need to intervene.
To address these and other concerns, this new policy allows everyone the opportunity to access any school that they want to attend. It is also aimed at speeding up the process of social integration.
Pupils and parents have complained that they have been denied access to schools of their choice because of feeder zone school policies.
As a result, their choice is being compromised. Schools are complaining that they are having serious problems, especially within the context of a population that is becoming increasingly litigious, relating to larger number of pupils wanting to come to their schools than can be accommodated, and therefore the need for some criteria for selection, and the simplest is the historical feeder zone proximity criterion.
Each sector is thus trying to exercise its mandates and rights. Using the metaphor of a force field, it is not difficult to understand that there are unequal forces within a force field, and that the strongest force will determine the direction of the force field.
In this case, and through this new policy, it is the state that will shape the path of school admissions in KZN.
From a community perspective, a school is an integral part of the community within which it exists. This means that the life, customs and traditions of a community are naturally reinforced within the microcosm of the school.
If the schools, as a result of this new policy, cannot support the people, and in particular the pupils of that community, through its admissions policy, the notion of community-based schooling will be lost.
There are certainly pros and cons to this social engineering, but the logistics of educational provisioning across communities will raise even more concerns, including cost, logistics and safety factors.
The central question that needs to be asked is: “Is this the appropriate response to the larger issues of social integration, choice and educational provisioning?”
The new policy suggests that communities are not well integrated yet. Should school education then be the panacea for this realisation? Why not focus more sharply on getting communities integrated and, through this process, schools will then reflect this integrated population?
If unequal educational provisioning is the issue – which is quite glaringly the case – why not focus on creating some centres of excellence in educational provisioning across all communities?
It is understandable that, economically, it is not possible to bring all schools to a point of excellence, but it is certainly possible to create some schools in each of the communities as centres of excellence, and progressively attend to the needs of all other schools.
As we aspire, as a country, towards a developed world state, choice, as a globalisation concept, will become even more prevalent.
The question at this point in our development is – do we want to privilege choice in a context where there are limits to choice, and where our country has not as yet reached that level of globalisation?
The answers to these questions are certainly not simple and will never be an appropriate response for everyone. Yet we have to make some hard decisions. Is this the right decision at this point in our political history, or are we initiating another policy craze for school education? The future will tell.