LETTERS | Bring back real education
The impact of Covid-19 on schooling is an opportunity to restructure education, starting with the home.
Even before preprimary (grades R & RR), children who have been hearing stories, solving simple puzzles and playing with educational toys and games stand out against those who have not.
* No automatic promotion to the next grade. As upsetting as it may be to be left behind, if a child is not coping with the requirements of a grade, they will cope even less with the higher requirements of the next grade. A lifetime as a failure is more traumatic than repeating a grade.
By completion of Grade 3, children should be able to read for understanding, write intelligent sentences and do basic arithmetic. Grades 4-12 depend upon these skills.
* Bring back the Junior Certificate (JC). In my parents' generation this was Standard 8 (Grade 10) and the closure of most school careers. JC recipients had an ability to think and reason lacking in many university students.
* Restore the requirement for all subjects to a minimum of 50% pass mark. Even this means only meeting half the target per grade, but it is theoretically possible to achieve 30% by being on time at the exam venue and spelling your name correctly on the answer sheet.
* Remove abominations like maths literacy. Subjects designed to "push the kids through so the pass rate looks good" serve no other purpose.
* Bring back school inspectors and hold all teachers to the highest possible standards. During the 15 years I lectured commerce, the Higher Certificate was introduced to cater for those who wished to pursue tertiary education but had not achieved the required matric mark. While some students were clearly not suited to academia, many proved to be bright, intelligent and eager young people.
Having survived the sausage-machine approach to education of many schools, they simply needed exposure to educators who were interested in them as people, encouraged them to excel and did not accept excuses.
* Restructure tertiary education by bringing back trade schools, technical colleges and on-the-job-training. Universities are intended as places of academic excellence and research, where our finest minds explore and consider the truths and principles underpinning our world. If your purpose in furthering your education is "to get a job", then serve an apprenticeship.
University degrees (I have 3) merely reflect that the bearer has achieved an acceptable level of knowledge in a field of study. They do not indicate any practical ability in that field and, in this respect, are inferior to trade tests.
I urge those in education to use this pandemic to get back to basics.
Education is about helping people to achieve their full human potential.
Until that is the norm, we may have teaching, but it is not education.
Dave Rankin, Cambridge
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