Education Myths in the New South Africa

The “new” South Africa has brought with it a wide open door to education dreams and aspirations that were not part of the “old” South Africa.  Government spending on education is comparable to our international counterparts at approximately R14 000 per child per year with a little more in the very poorest areas.  However there are lots of problems with how this open door works.  Here are some of our education myths –

  1. Myth: A young person can go on to any career they choose. The reality is that career choice is restricted by academic performance and subject choice.  The cost is that our youth hold unrealistic hopes and dreams that cannot be fulfilled and miss out on opportunities that they may have had the ability to grasp.  Compared to our international counterparts, this is unique.  In most countries, the aspirations of youth follow the aspirations of their parents, realistic and achievable.
  2. Myth: A good education is available to everyone equally. The reality is that, in general, the more you can pay for your education, the better your results will be.  The cost is that families with low economic resources but academically able children cannot buy access to quality education.  Whilst the Fee Exemption policy is designed to ensure that no family is excluded from education due to inability to pay, the reality is that schools screen out families they think are unlikely to pay before they accept them.  Academic potential is lost.
  3. Myth: If you get your matric you will get a good job. The reality is a strong relationship between level of education, likelihood of getting a job and how much that job might pay.  Young people in the Western Cape, who don’t get post matric qualifications, have an unemployment rate of 25% against only 5% of those with post matric training.  The key to opening the post matric door is not just passing matric, but gaining a Bachelor Pass.
  4. Myth: You can choose a good high school in your area. The reality is that there is very little public information about school performance to enable you to make a choice.  In addition, some areas have NO good high schools to choose from.  Delft is a good example where the “best” high schools in the area are in neighbouring Khayelitsha, accessible by a 20 min taxi ride, R560/ month, if you can afford it.  Poor communities get poor education, poor access to jobs and stay poor.
  5. Myth: Free schools are good enough if you can’t afford to pay. Reality – at the very best of the free schools, 40% of students drop out before matric and of those who complete only 40% achieve a Bachelor pass.  That is 60 / 250 kids who start Gr 8 who might have a chance at a tertiary education, if they figure out all the other door problems.

The SAILI answers to these education myths –

  1. Scholarship – find the smart kids in families with low financial resources and place them in a school that works.  Save academic talent and change the trajectory of poverty for that family.
  2. Building school strength – find schools in poor communities that are showing solid signs of improving performance. Place smart kids in these schools.  Additional talent leads to internal competition, improved performance, better results, attracting better teachers and the cycle of improvement continues.
  3. Information – track school cost versus performance and map it. Get the information out to every parent in Western Cape.  Promote the idea of good high school choice for historically disadvantaged communities.
  4. Target Data Analysis Consultations – provide internal and external analysis of school performance data giving schools a base line from which to set improvement targets and measure change.
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