Tailor education system to fit needs of economy

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IN South Africa, we are bombarded by expressions like poor education quality, high graduate unemployment, high skills shortage and slow economic growth. In finding remedial interventions, we may have to ask questions like:

  • What are the causes of South Africa’s slow economic growth?
  • Will high levels of skills address economic growth?
  • What are the causes of high graduate unemployment?
  • Does the quality of education relate to the market’s needs?

We need to create collaborations between education, markets and society. The rationale here is that education can produce graduates but will those graduates be what the economy or markets require?

Will these graduates address the high skills shortage? Does education produce graduates who can effectively interact with the markets?

Without triangular partnerships between education, corporates and society, we will eternally produce “unemployable” graduates. We need to discern whether our educational curriculum relates to the market’s requirements.

Society and the markets require pupils/graduates who are able to comprehend, analyse, synthesise and evaluate content. Does our educational curriculum promote these competencies?

Our education curriculum must enable pupils to acquire assertiveness, and analytical, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Education, like other institutions, has to evolve so as to meet changing times.

Inherent in this is that the curriculum in teacher’s colleges also needs to be reviewed. Is the current curriculum at the teacher’s colleges/institutions in sync with current socio-economic and/or global dynamics?

Also important, we must rescript our paradigm by getting rid of this obsession with matric viz-a-viz university entrance. As adults, parents, teachers and society in general, we must passionately and objectively dispel the stereotype in the youth that university is the logical and necessary progression after matric.

Most pupils regard the university as the only learning institution that elevates one’s socio-educational esteem. They register for any generic degree and on completion they then become unemployable because markets are already saturated with generic university degrees.

Not all pupils are “cut out” to pursue the academic route. Some have an inherent aptitude to do well in vocational, trade and technical learning programmes. To a great extent, the current skills shortage in the country can be addressed by qualifications from technical colleges, vocational and trade institutions, FETs, etc.

Also of critical concern is the issue of mathematics in South Africa. Kenya’s subject matter expertise (SME) in mathematics is more than 80%, Zimbabwe’s is close to 70% and elsewhere in Africa it’s more than 60%.

South Africa, however, has an SME of just more than 30% in mathematics. This means, South Africa has got fewer knowledgeable mathematics teachers than other parts of Africa.

I am still baffled by the intended outcomes value of the subject called maths literacy.

Basic as it is, wouldn’t arithmetic achieve the same intended objective? Furthermore, why would such an elementary numeracy intervention be introduced at senior rather than at foundation and intermediate grades? In terms of life-long learning impetus, how far does a pupil go with maths literacy?

It’s now time for a very serious engagement to contribute towards a meaningful education from foundation to intermediate, through senior grades and beyond tomorrow.

Julian Ngcangca, Port Elizabeth

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