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By Ido lekota Political Notebook | Jul 08, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THIS week Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the reviewing of the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement.

THIS week Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the reviewing of the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement.

This review is aimed at fixing major flaws in the Outcome Based Eduction (OBE) system.

Motshekga revealed that a new curriculum, called Schooling 2025, would "remove the last ghost of 1998".

The new system, she revealed, was aimed at improving learner performance. This is to be achieved through improved teaching as well as focusing on providing pupils with in-depth skills.

The approach is now back to basics. Teachers will be provided with syllabi outlining the aims and objectives the curriculum.

The syllabi will include the teaching methodology for teachers as well as learner assessment processes. Also included in the syllabi will be learning areas for pupils.

So there you have it. The system once tagged by its critics as Obscenely Bad Education is dead.

Halleluja! I can hear one of the system's most ardent critic, academic Mamphela Ramphele, say. In 2008 Ramphele called for the abolition of the system, saying it had "failed our children".

One of the criticisms against the system was that it put a lot of administrative responsibility on teachers, leading to their spending little time on what they are supposed to do - teach.

Pupils, on the other hand, were overloaded with projects. Given the imbalance in access to resources, this worked against pupils from disadvantaged communities where schools are under-resourced.

A key finding against the system was from a 2008 survey conducted by the Department of Education through Jet Educational Services.

The survey found that only about 36percent of children could read and count by the time they were eight or nine years old.

This meant that almost 64percent of children do not have the essential basics for acquiring education - to read and count.

As one critic once said: "OBE has created a situation where we have children who know how to socialise; colour in, cut and paste; but they cannot read and write properly."

The response to the announcement of the death of OBE has been overwhelming. Educationists, teachers and unionists alike have applauded the move.

Education expert Graeme Bloch is one of those who applauded the "back to basics approach" as a move in the right direction.

The sad thing about OBE is that it has been a costly exercise when it comes to human resource development in this country.

Statistics have revealed that under OBE a million children dropped out of school every year; and more than five million pupils left school unable to read or write adequately.

Given the shortage of critical skills like engineers, technicians and scientists the year 2008 must be the pinnacle of the system's failure.

This is the year when matriculants sat for the National Senior Certificate examination under OBE for the first time. The pass rate was 62,5percent.

The then education minister Naledi Pandor said the results showed that the department was "making positive incremental gains in building an effective learning-oriented system".

What Pandor did not acknowledge was the fact that more students had failed in 2008 (under OBE) than in 2007 (under the old matriculation examination system).

The situation was further compounded by the fact that among those who had passed were students who could not be admitted to their courses of choice at university because they did not pass maths but maths literacy.

Describing this unfortunate situation the editor of a magazine for the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers, Paddy Hartdegen, said: "If my figures are correct there are precisely 14 possible courses - in the arts - that are open to students with maths literacy.

"So here we sit with a generation of school-leavers who have suffered through the new OBE system and thousands of them debarred from studying subjects of their choice."

Unlike the minister, Hartdegen was not very optimistic about the situation.

His concern was that fewer students were able to enrol in scientific fields of study to boost the much needed critical skills in the country.

The picture painted by Hartdegen remains. We are still faced with a situation in which many of the students who enrolled at universities in 2009 for courses that were not of their choice will drop out.

Schooling 2025 has a long-term vision of creating a viable foundation for education and learning. But what about the legions of the "lost generation" of students educated under OBE - who have been spat out by the system?


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