The light at the end of South Africa's education tunnel
Opinion piece by Simone Moolman
It’s clear that the world is changing at a rapid pace and as the flaws in our current systems become more apparent, the need for a fresh perspective on the way we work and educate is dawning. As mainstream jobs and methods of working move towards the digital age, it’s clear there needs to be a shift in the way educators are trained and what specialisations students are offered. I went on an investigative journey to find out how higher educational institutes are preparing for these changes, as learning becomes less general and more focused on the specific needs of students.
Research has shown that much of the information students are taught is unnecessary, courses are overpriced, pushing many students out of the market and the time it takes to gain a degree unnecessarily long. The belief that a degree is the ticket to a better job, stable income and a good life no longer holds true. If institutions were to promote smaller, more skills based courses or degrees to coincide with new technological advances, we may be able to develop a more educated, skilled workforce at a much lower fee than that of the traditional system. By increasing access to higher learning and making courses more affordable we can create more options for individuals entering the job market.
I dug deeper and was pleasantly surprised to find a small number of institutions in South Africa offering quality education for a fraction of the price and courses that comply with today’s changing climate and need for better methods of teaching. Several exciting innovations stand out, such as the recognition of prior learning (RPL). Not all prospective students have the time or money to complete all the credits in a degree, RPL is a programme that takes into account a student’s existing skills and life experiences, in order to speed up the time to complete their courses. The option to study both online and on campus also gives students more flexibility and the option to integrate their life and studies according to their specific needs. One such institution in Cape Town is Cornerstone. They have presented a perfect example of how innovation can move higher education towards a much needed shift, not only because they advocate for inclusivity and better access but they offer work integrated courses, opening the doors to practical learning and essential workplace skills.
More specifically within teaching, educators must be able to provide knowledge effectively, but also enhance a students’ skills, setting them up with a value system in order to make them capable people in the workforce. Delving deeper into Cornerstone, I was impressed by their ethos of producing open minded, ethical leaders as well as teachers of a high standard, constantly thinking out of the box in terms of the courses they offer. The workplace has changed at a rapid pace with a vast spectrum of roles not catered for through the subjects on offer in South Africa. By creating tailor made courses students can learn specific skills based on their interests. The next ten years will see a surge in online businesses, Cornerstone is one of the few institutes to have recognised this and created a Bachelor Commerce in software development, a step up from the traditional Bachelor of Science, allowing students to get relevant business and technical skills that have wide application within multiple industries. They are the only ones in Africa who offer this commerce based degree.
One thing is for sure, we need students who are effective in driving technological innovation within a business context, as well as more educators that teach from a place of value. I feel a lot more positive about the future of education in South Africa especially after seeing the steps being taken from institutes such as Cornerstone.
If you have any questions about Cornerstone you can contact them at www.cornerstone.ac.za