UCT says interest in its R2,000 a month online high school has exceeded expectations. File photo.
UCT says interest in its R2,000 a month online high school has exceeded expectations. File photo.

Why UCT Online High School matters for SA education system

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Oct 3, 2021

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YOU don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that there’s something deeply wrong with the South African education system.

As a result of this, there are numerous initiatives that are designed to fix it. One of them is the UCT Online High School, modelled after Stanford University Online High school.

At a surface level, it might be difficult to understand how a technology-driven institution can form part of solving an education challenge in a country with a digital divide challenge. An interview with the school Principal, Yandiswa Xhakaza, by Fast Company magazine, has revealed that there’s more value to this online high school in SA than first meets the eye.

One of the major challenges facing universities is getting learners who are not ready for a university. Some universities have addressed the challenge by creating special programmes such as adding an extra year to enable a learner to adjust and be better equipped for university education.

Through the online high school, UCT will grow its own timber as well as prepare learners for other academic institutions. UCT will have a better opportunity to address gaps that are not filled by schools in preparing learners for university education.

The online school may be solving another less known challenge in the education system – a shortage of teachers who can teach in an online setting.

The UCT Online High school Principal says a teacher in a traditional school does not automatically qualify to teach an online high school.

The online school has struggled to get qualified teachers for an online high school. As the school develops, it will develop a new type of teacher who is digitally savvy. This is key for South Africa as the demand for online schools rises.

The increase in the number of schools is something that cannot be said about brick and mortar schools. The challenge has been another sore point for the schooling system. In South Africa only a few schools offer the best education and they are accessible to only a select few learners.

The UCT Online High School is not limited by physical infrastructure to accept only a few. It’s built to enable access to more learners than a traditional school. In its first month of calling for applications, it received about 4 000.

The ability of an online school to scale will enable more learners to access better and quality education.

UCT Online High School has attracted an MBA graduate as its first principal and director. This is rare in South Africa where few schools can claim to have a leader with business administration skills which is an important factor in leading a successful school.

All the factors are key in addressing the challenges and developing a new type of schooling system for South Africa which the UCT Online High

School is working towards.

This has also been confirmed by recognition from the World Economic Forum. The UCT Online High School has been selected among the 12 Top Innovators in The WorldClass Education Challenge at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021.

In May this year, Deloitte launched The WorldClass Education Challenge on the World Economic Forum’s UpLink platform – a digital platform to crowdsource solutions for the world’s most pressing issues, as outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

From almost 400 submissions, 12 innovators have been selected. These organisations will work alongside Deloitte professionals to help address the global education crisis.

The UCT Online High School made the final selection of Top Innovators in Africa alongside other game-changers in their relative fields such as Learnable, Nomad Education and StanLab.

South Africa has battled to implement online education due to the digital divide and other factors. UCT Online high school may prove to be an important model for the education system. In implementing this model, the online school may need to also explore ways of enabling free education for deserving learners, by partnering with commercial partners with interest in developing local skills.

* This article first appeared on Fast Company (SA) online.

** Diphoko is Editor-In-Chief, Fast Company (SA) magazine.

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