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There should be a change in mindset from gearing the minds of youngsters to studies in university to undertaking apprenticeships, says Richard Woolfrey.
Johannesburg - An article in the media last weekend highlighting violence in the classrooms and a statement by Mamphela Ramphele, AgangSA leader, stating that the standard of education in the public sector was worse than before 1994, leads one to wonder what type of policies she would adopt if in government.
Although I was not in South Africa during apartheid, I suspect it was a period when teachers were better qualified and dedicated and received more respect from pupils.
I imagine how the dedicated teachers of today struggle to maintain their motivation and become frustrated by poor political leadership, low pay and an inefficient administration that, at times, cannot even deliver basic textbooks.
There must also be disillusionment when they learn of the corruption and misappropriation of funds that takes place in schools and in the education department, hampering improvement of facilities.
Assuming such problems are addressed and do not include quick fixes such as increasing class sizes in former Model C schools, then perhaps Ramphele would consider further ideas.
If she were to have education ministers wishing to tour overseas for reasons other than shopping, there would be merit in visiting a country like Germany or, in the Far East, Singapore.
Much would be learnt of the excellent manner in which educational studies are closely geared to the needs of industry.
Leading from that is the need for relevance of school curriculums.
I found it depressing to hear a university graduate speaking of a planned visit to Holland in the belief it was in the Mediterranean area.
The need for close liaison between schools and companies was well illustrated in a recent television programme. Discussions with school-leavers in England brought out their combined feelings of anxiety and frustration at the lack of work opportunities at a time when there are still economic challenges facing the country.
Their counterparts in Germany were also interviewed.
There, the same concerns were not registered, as expressed by one young man.
He had a clear path, mapped out while at school.
On leaving he was geared to join a company that employed him under an apprenticeship scheme.
He was paid a wage, worked for two or three days a week and was on apprentice studies for the remaining days. On satisfactory completion of training he was assured of employment in the company.
As is now happening in Britain, there should be a change in mindset from gearing the minds of youngsters to studies in university to undertaking apprenticeships.
I appreciate that nearly 95 percent of graduates do secure employment.
Indeed, my daughter, who attained a degree with honours, enjoys the opportunity given to her by an excellent company under its graduate scheme.
We are, however, aware of the appalling statistics of those who fail to complete university studies, not to mention those who fail to pass matric.
The country has a crying need for trade skills. In my school days in Britain we had a good system, sadly discarded, where children were assessed to ensure they were set on a school curriculum that matched their talent, capability and aspirations.
As a result, while all studied certain core subjects, some were set on a path geared towards higher studies in sciences or the arts while others had to devote time to craftwork that led to technical colleges rather than universities.
Perhaps Ramphele would share the dream of seeing such needs in South Africa being met with the sight of apprentice colleges being built across the regions to the same standards as shopping malls, one side satisfying the needs of industry, the other continuing to meet the requirements of the consumer.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.