RECENT pronouncements by the Minister of Basic Education "to take education back to basics" sounds plausible but can also be a source of confusion .
It can be confusing to us common folks, especially as there has been nothing in the field of education that we can all be proud of and want to go back to. No wonder this issue has remained a subject of controversy.
What does the minister mean by going "back to basics"? What basics?
Our education in the past was a mess. Talking about going back to the basics may create a false impression among some Afrikaners that the system they imposed on black people in the past was better than the Outcomes Based Education system we have tried to implement over the past 15 years.
In fact, compared to OBE, what we had in the past was so diabolical we had to get rid of that draconian system.
Criticisms of OBE have never been about it being a bad system. Everything said about OBE concerns the fact that it is a resource-driven system.
We are a Third World country that behaves like a First World country. None of our developing world counterparts experiment with the things we experiment with.
Our downfall is that we don't do adequate planning before we implement these classy ideas.
Our biggest challenge concerning OBE has been concerning implementation. The tendency is that each time we fail to implement a project, we walk away from it, regardless of the amount of money invested.
It would be interesting to know how much money this OBE experiment has cost SA, now that we seem to be heading "back to the basics".
SA has always struggled with implementation. Most of our changes do not seem to be preceded with proper research but by gut feeling.
How much research went into our decision to go "back to basics"?
Replacing one flawed system with another won't help us overcome our problems. We have to be courageous and creative enough to come up with better solutions.
The available research suggests that failure to implement OBE properly was responsible for producing a band of intellectuals who are struggling with their university studies.
Research by the likes of Jonathan Jansen and Brahm Fleisch has cited pedagogical, epistemological and physical constraints all of which concern implementation of OBE and these include lack of planning, lack of basic resources such as textbooks and lack of proper teacher training.
The writer is the director of strategic workplace diversity at Wits Business School.