JOHANNESBURG - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement that pupils would now be able to leave school in Grade 9 after obtaining a general education certificate has attracted wide criticism in the country.
Some have gone as far as saying that apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoed must be all smiles in his grave. When the Bantu Education Act was promulgated in 1953, Verwoed said “What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot do it in practice.”
The results have been very devastating for the Black Africans and the Coloured
population. The successfully completing matric for these have reached a plateau with no prospect of changing unless something drastic is not done in education.
This at a time when pass rates amongst the Indians and Whites have successively improved along with their completion rates at university.
Korea which suffered inferior education under domination by Japan until its liberation in 1945, provides some lessons for South Africa. When it came to human resource development Korea, took a different route. Just after Gwngbokjeol Korea went into an Indaba for a new philosophy of education.
It clawed back and centralized power. In time education was taken out of the hands of local school boards and got concentrated under the centralized ministry of education.
The ministry administered schools, allocated resources and presided over basic policy decisions. School board members were approved by the ministry instead of popular vote.
South Africa allocates 18 percent of its budget to education compared to 13 percent in Korea.
University education has become the preferred career compared to production of blue collar careers that emanate from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). When the crisis of 2007/8 struck many Korean graduates found themselves without a job.
South Africa has begun to feel the pinch of graduate unemployment although returns to graduate education in South Africa still remain high.
Only 20 percent of high school graduates in South Africa qualifying to go to university. In fact, of the original cohort of children born, the figure is a mere 10 percent . The revision in education policy in South Africa since 1994, however well intended continues to show that the road to nirvana is soiled with thorns.
It is completely different from planning it and finally executing it. No doubt, Motshekga’s good intentions and those of ministers before her is bound to scare our instincts of victimhood.
This is not least when the intended Junior Certificate as exit has very little to show by way of planning for the TVET system.
The 4IR finds us woefully under prepared with ten million people unemployed, uneducated, hungry and angry. The announcement for change is unconvincing and the hostility with which it has been received captures the effects of Bantu Education and the
unsuccessful precedents in changes of the system. Whilst I think we may be exhausted by endless indaba’s, perhaps one more is necessary. It is the education indaba. The future, our children and Motshekga need our help.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and is the former head of Statistics South Africa.