I am very positive that logical-thinking South Africans who care deeply for the children of this county can change the system, and can do so in a very short time, writes the former Principal at South Peninsula High School. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Is it all gloom and doom for the educational system in South Africa?

I personally do not think so. On the contrary. I am very positive that logical-thinking South Africans who care deeply for the children of this county can change the system, and can do so in a very short time.

The problem with those who are entrusted with the education of the children in South Africa is that they are not prepared to listen to critical comments from educators and parents who desperately want all our children to succeed.

First, the people in charge of education in the country must do away immediately with the kragdadig manner in which education is implemented.

If the education authorities engaged people like Professor Jonathan Jansen (now at Stellenbosch University) and Lionel Scholtz (ex-teacher at Scottsdene High in Kuils River in Cape Town) in 1996 about the introduction of the positivist Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) philosophy of the National Education Department (NED)under the then minister, the late Kader Asmal (the system which progressive thinkers had referred to as “is mal”) the rot created by OBE could have been stopped right in its tracks,

This system believed that learners could also write their own curriculum and introduced technical terms such a critical outcomes, specific outcomes, range statements and a host of others foreign to teachers. Some subject advisers could rattle off these outcomes as if they were in educational trances.

Instead of learners being awarded marks, they were assessed using numbers 1-4 in primary schools and 1-7 in high schools. Reports issued to learners were pages long with numeral code descriptors. What confusion!

Teachers spent the years 1998- 2018 trying to come to grips with this dumbing-down monster called OBE.

They were hoping that by Easter 1999 OBE would be in the dustbin of history (thus the slogan “Out By Easter”). This was wishful thinking - not with the obstinacy of NED.

When I questioned the so-called “guru” of OBE, William Spady, in 1998 at the Mowbray Teachers’ College about “what if a teacher disagreed with the positivist nature of OBE?” He did not answer my question.

Officials of the Department of Education adopted an uncritical stance to teachers who questioned the sense of OBE. I remember I was told in 1998 by a Western Cape education department regional director that the school at which I was principal would be sorry if it did not implement OBE.

Most officials of the department lacked the courage to oppose OBE.

It was left to the Western Cape Parent Teacher Student Forum under the leadership of people like Willie Leith, Russel Bell and Fazlin Bell to oppose OBE - risking their teaching careers in the process.

OBE is still the philosophy being applied by the NED, albeit in forms that have been camouflaged.

Unless we return to basics, where learners are given the confidence to read, write and comprehend, and it can be done very quickly in this beautiful country of ours, we will remain at the bottom of the class in the world.

* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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