Thursday, January 11, 2007

Education as a corner stone & all that jargon

This week’s news is all about the schools. And how screwed (up) they are. Honestly, watching 7pm TV last night was enough to have any Education Endorsing fool sobbing into their sundowner GnT.

Matric pass rates of Nada. Fully equipped classrooms promised, yet still just existing as a high pile of bricks. Not even the desks had arrived. No water. No electricity. The shade of trees acting as kids’ classrooms (one time when Africa prays for no rain). Other learners unable to cross the flooding rivers to their schools. A million Rand needed at one school if they hope to abide by the curriculum, but hardly a portion of that allocated by government to them.


Then my maid returned from a few days’ “Business Trip” to her home town. She had gone north to shout her heavy bulk off at her young son’s school.

Her son has failed Standard Eight twice at his school. 2006 was his third attempt. In tears of desperation and confusion she called me at work sometime in December to tell me that he had apparently failed EVERYTHING this past year again. Every single subject.

He, meanwhile, assured his mom that while he might have done bugger all for the 2 first years (as unsupervised teenagers are known to do) he did work his butt off come Attempt 3.

This dear smiley boy had even managed to win a Maths prize last year that was held throughout three provinces. He was the best Maths student out of 3 provinces! How then could such a boy fail EVERYTHING, including his prize subject?

Nothing added up.

My maid arrived at this Pietersburg school with her son in toe, and him clutching all his 2006 papers and tests. Apparently she was not the only bewildered parent, and that there was a very long line of parents and kids in similar predicaments.

The not-so-polite teachers finally looked over all his books and papers and tests. He had passed. He was perfectly allowed and able to move up a standard.

Either out of laziness or inefficiency the teachers at this school had failed the kid.

This leaves one wondering whether this may have been the case once or twice before. As well as how many learners they do this to, and how many of these children do not have folks to fight for them and against a broken system.

Instead of apologies they told informed my maid that he is a slow child. His writing is terrible. He should focus on numbers, and leave school at the end of this year for a mechanical school. (So our new education system is about encouraging children then…)

The teachers moaned about the classes being too big. His class (the number of kids in a single room, not the amount in one standard) is 100 or so children. (Mine was 60 girls in our standard, 20 in my class…and no more!) Yes, a teacher cannot possibly be very effective in such an environment. She can not even move amongst the children and examine their work while in the room.

Not enough teachers. Not enough resources. Not enough tax payers’ money going towards the salaries of our country’s educators.

The precious teachers proceeded to complain that it is the children who are lazy and do not want to learn. My dear maid, being the strong & outspoken person she is (she brought up a girl like me after all), apparently turned to the children around and asked how many of these kids attend Saturday morning extra lessons. They all said that they did, but no teacher ever arrived.

I have witnessed a friend of mine make an ad hoc tutoring service thrive in Western Cape townships. I have seen how desperate these children are to learn and to move up in the world. My money’s on the kids being the honest ones.

For fck sakes.

And apparently this is the best school in the region. Many new children had arrived that day to enrol, as their schools were much worse. So increasing class sizes and demands on these poorly paid, disinterested (burnt out?) teachers.

My maid also chose to argue about the enrolment of another student. The school was not allowing him to return as he was already 23. She demanded to know what exactly they proposed as an alternative. He had no hope of finding a job or continuing his studies or being accepted by another school at this stage. So what then, he sits at home all day until eventually he is forced into crime?!?

The teachers replied by saying that she talks as much as her son.

When was I actively supporting a nation where education and the desire for such was allowed to be so disrespected? Slighted? Snubbed?

[Delay in post was caused by me living up to my Resolution 5: Stop whiling away my work day blogging & emailing mates, and rather actually do more office work, UNISA dumb-stupid-I-hate-part-time-study Honours, and French homework before my teacher releases the French wrath on me.


gudipudi said...

Math game for kids at diff educational sites will dramatically improve comprehension and test scores.


Anonymous said...

Math should be taught like a language. How many kids get home and say "I failed maths" and the parents say oh well it is hard. Now imagine saying "I failed {insert first language here}" every one will say dumb ass.

We need a culture of learning. No disrespect to teachers, but in my schooling experience they only became teachers because they either could not cope in the real world, loved to cain (not cola), support some kind of real activity (pre-pro sports etc) or (I suspect) must be closet kiddy fiddlers (my RI teacher comes to mind). I must add that I did not go to the best school in the world and I am sure there are many teachers that have a passion, because it can't be because of the pay.

Guess I can't really speak since I am not prepared to face 30++ snotty brats more interested in tik or porn MMS of each other.

Oh I long for the heady school days

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks GudiPudi (love the nic btw!). I quickly glanced over the page. Looks v. interesting. I'll look at it properly after all this office work and exam rubbish has calmed down!!

Guinnnie! Where've you been? Working?! Impressive. - Being a disasterous language learner, I wouldn't think anyone was a dumbass for failing a lang.

We claim that we do have a culture or learning, but we need to put our tax money where the jargon is!

ChewTheCud said...

Maybe with last years matric pass rate the government will finally start taking education seriously. Or maybe it'll have to get even worse before someone does something. I can tell you from firsthand that the teachers are mostly lazy shits who don't give a damn. There has to come a point where somebody realizes enough is enough. I wonder what it is though because one school had only 1 pupil pass matric last year out of 200.

Anonymous said...

More like a millstone.

Anonymous said...

Tell me about being a desasterous learner (spelling intentional).
Who said we had a culture of learning? Its all outcomes based education now. I find that quite funny since there are so many parallels to our old education ideologies, except that it was racially segregated then (and not a good thing).

Granted not everyone is an academic or even wants to be. University is a privilege and not a right, but that also seems to be out the window.

Anyway a moot point without good teachers. Guess there is not too much money left over after paying high paid lawyers to keeping our "leaders" out of jail, flying them round the world or throwing the odd party.

Anonymous said...

Chewed, from experience, if the exam is too hard, move the bell curve. I had to assist once marking exam scripts. The dude was so concerned that the stats looked right I basically gave up reading people scripts.

For those writing exams, right or wrong, after marking 100 scripts it all comes down to the handwriting. If you can't see the answer immediately....
Mind you I only have experience with conceptual mathematical stuff and there it is quite easy to see in a few seconds if they get it or not. The method must be right and not the answer.

That is also what is wrong with school maths. You can pass by not understanding anything, just parrot fashion learning theorems etc.

Triggermap said...

If teachers don't care, how does the DOE change that? Its easier to train up underprepared teachers as the DOE focuses on and has many praiseworthy initiatives for that (maybe not enough of them, but in areas they are trying). But if teachers neglect their role as custodian of children's education, the system is rotten. Unfortunately SA can't afford an overhaul when they can't even maintain the current infrastructure. I also think OBE places more stress on teachers, but thats for another topic... said...

Before you dis S African education you might want to reflect on one 1st World County's lack of tackling their problem that rings a bell with wghat you have discussed:
Five hundred secondary schools in England did not meet the government's minimum target for GCSE attainment, the annual performance tables show.

Ministers unapologetically "raised the bar", saying the benchmark of five good grades must include English and maths.

They want a quarter of pupils in every school to manage this - but in almost a sixth of schools they did not.

Yet many do well on a new "value added" measure taking account of factors such as gender, ethnicity and deprivation.

The tables confirm that, across the country, 45.8% of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 of the national curriculum attained the equivalent of five GCSEs at grade C or above including English and maths.

The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, David Frost, said this figure was "shocking".

On the old measure, under which any five subjects counted, it was 59.2%.

The tables, compiled by the Department for Education and Skills, provide a school-by-school breakdown of those national averages.

In 114 schools every pupil achieved the new English and maths benchmark - 34 of them state schools, the rest in the independent sector.

The best, on the basis of the average points each pupil attained, was Chelmsford County High School for Girls in Essex.

The 119 pupils averaged 738 points in their exams - equivalent to more than 12 A* grades.

The worst was Temple School near Rochester in Kent, where only 2% of the pupils managed five good grades including English and maths.

Report from the said...

....and if you are lucky enough to get dumb teachers......

Students at an Aberdeen university were left bewildered when they were given an exam with the answers attached.
Dozens of final-year business students at Robert Gordon University (RGU) received a marker's version of the exam paper by mistake.

However, students alerted invigilators to the mistake and will sit a rescheduled exam.

An RGU spokeswoman told the BBC Scotland news website: "We have apologised to all students concerned."

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - that is what we are hoping. Really really hoping. That this is as bad as it will get and that this year the DoE will really step in (or even *Shock Horro* our own president) & improve things!

Kyks - :)

Guinnie - Exactly! When the politicians demonstrate so blatantly where they think money should be spent, how can teachers (who get paid bugger all) be expected to remain motivated!!

And yes, education should be about making people think, not so that they answer a question parrot-fashion correctly. Then they have learnt nothing, and this will help no one, them, us, the state, in the long run. One is not meant to create the stats, the stats are meant to come from the reality. HA HA HA. Chances.

Triggermap - thanks for the comment and welcome! I am not too clued up about OBE, but interesting point you are leading onto there. Increased pay is one minor incentive. And yes, I have come across both great initiatives and also some incredible teachers despite their predicaments. Others just need a job, any job. They get the job and sit in it and do the bare bare minimum.

When we wanted to conduct HIV-Awareness Training courses and Agricultural courses in some schools, free of charge, we were asked if those who attened would be paid to do so. That completely demotivated me. No! I am trying to help YOU! Not your presence being a help to me!! But then the next school would be incredible in their eagerness and attitudes.

Is there a system when it is so different and unique from school to school!?

Anonymous said...

Hey by no means is bad education just an SA/ 3rd world thing. However this is an SA blog.

IMHO the whole world is going bad education route. The reasons I will let everyone speculate for themselves.

Champagne Heathen said...

Rob - Wow! Fascinating! And very very scary.

And also interesting about that "new 'value added' measure". Political Correctness to a new level??

How I wish I had more teachers like that one you mentioned!! Although I did. And that is why now my Zulu is so disgracefully bad!

Champagne Heathen said...

Guinnie - I think I will stick to HIV issues and general sexual exploit ponderin thanks! Taking on the whole world's screwed up learning systems is more than a bit overwhelming!

Anonymous said...

Personally I find it easier and MUCH less frustrating to tackle the world's screwed up learning systems than to even try figure out the general sexual exploit.

Champagne Heathen said...

Easier maybe, but as much fun!?!?

Anonymous said...

Think I can debate the fun issue.

These days the ones I meet are either nutters, unavailable or want to settle down with 2.5 kids and a dog asap. (sometimes a combination of all).

My brain hurts!

Buddha Belly said...

I am fascinated by this lady's perseverance and how she is so willing to fight for her sons life.
I see growth being stunted in various forms on a daily basis and there is nothing that saddens me mores.
As humans striving for better is almost instinctual, to do so in the face of such apathy is nothing short of inspiring.

It is very cliche to say, but the future of any country lies in it's youth, and I believe that these kids are not alone. I think poor education nd lack of stimulation ad challenge is a worldwide dis-ease.

I enjoyed this post. Your passion for others is heart warming.

Champagne Heathen said...

Guinnnie - nothing wrong with a nutter! Or is that only something a woman can say??

BuddhaBelly - thanks! And yes, she is one inspiring woman. Also, it is incredible those people that keep pushing and trying and striving no matter how many walls & shut doors they come across, and how many obstacles they have to try climb over.

It is an ultimate question - when to keep fighting, and when to stop and let it go.

Have a gorgeous weekend!