Can Extra lessons Improve South Africa's Failing Education System?

27-Feb-2012 | News-Press Release

There can be no doubt that the South African education system is failing, but the question on everyone’s mind is “how can we change that”? The failure of the education system stems from various causes but the two main culprits are inequalities and the abuse of the education system.

 The historical roots of inequalities are still present and include aspects such as the different levels of schools, teachers and finances. Poverty plays a big role in education because in many poverty stricken areas children do not go to school, while others that do struggle to concentrate due to malnutrition. These learners have no access to proper tuition or private lessons. Whereas schools in affluent areas in South Africa have high quality education, better teachers and no problem with nutrition. Another benefit is many of these schools offer extra lessons which can improve a learner’s future drastically by ensuring the learners understand the work and achieve high marks.

 Lack of resources, lack of discipline and poor morale, policy implementation issues and inadequate parental involvement has led to learners and teachers taking advantage of the system. A number of well documented incidents of tardiness by teachers and learners in South Africa have highlighted this issue. These problems are aggravated by widespread incompetence and corruption within the Department of Education. This has rendered many schools ineffective and underfunded. In contrast, many aspiring learners in rural areas are unable to attend school because of access issues such as distance to the nearest school, the state or non-existence of roads and proximity to private property. 

South Africa needs to take immediate and drastic steps to improve the education system. This will require the whole country working together in an attempt to empower young people to improve the quality of their lives and ultimately to eradicate poverty. The obvious answer is parents need to take a greater interest in their children’s education. Parents and learners need to understand the importance of a solid education as the foundation for life. Extra lessons in general and private lessons in particular can be advantageous by providing one-on-one interaction that is absent in overcrowded class rooms. Despite this system proving hugely effective in countries like Japan, it is not practical or financially viable in South Africa.

 A more workable solution is private-public partnerships to secure adequate resources for infrastructure, salaries and equipment needed to improve the education system. However, for this to be effective, government needs to abandon its electioneering rhetoric and commit itself to a reform agenda that focuses on a sound conceptual framework, effective partnerships, adequate resourcing with evidence-led planning and monitoring playing a prominent role. 

The result of an efficient education system will gear the South African economy for growth by equipping learners with the skills needed to increase their potential and earning power. The United Nations (UN) identified universal education as the foundation on which many of the Millennium Development Goals are built.

 The UN says, “Education is development. It creates choices and opportunities for people, reduces the twin burdens of poverty and diseases, and gives a stronger voice in society. For nations it creates a dynamic workforce and well-informed citizens able to compete and cooperate globally – opening doors to economic and social prosperity.” Yes it will take hard work, but the hard work will yield exceptional results.   

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