Our education future is clear, there’s no need to play catch-up

Ideas

Our education future is clear, there’s no need to play catch-up

If we can steer clear of corruption, there’s certainly money to realign the education delivery model

Columnist

Ask teachers about the future shape of the school system, and the picture that emerges looks even more dangerous and divided than most of us think. I have read about 80 teacher stories from around the country on the theme teaching in (and beyond) pandemic times, the provisional title of our new book. In a nutshell, there’s trouble brewing or in the more polite Afrikaans translation, hier kom groot, er ... moeilikheid.

Why? The big story of 2020 was the amount of instructional time lost in the school year since the pandemic-enforced lockdown in March. Several grades lost months of teaching. The government euphemism of a “trimmed curriculum” is nothing like a neat-and-tidy haircut. It quite simply means important grade content (apart from the useless content removed from an overloaded CAPS curriculum) was dropped to give the facade of reasonableness to the end-of-year assessments. Fine, but essential content was lost in the process.

Worse, not a single public school reported 100% attendance at the point of reopening, which means further time lost for the most vulnerable children. In many of the teacher stories there is constant reference to “the most disadvantaged learners” who are likely to lose the most from the lockdown, the staggered return to school, and the alarming rates of dropout in poor communities. In the majority of our schools, opting to stay at home did not mean the choice of online learning; it meant no learning at all...

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