Readiness by families and schools critical to education

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture credit: Vathiswa Ruselo
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture credit: Vathiswa Ruselo

School readiness is a contested and emotional term.

It is invoked regularly in discussions on improving the quality of schooling outcomes and learner performance, on better preparation of young people for life and to facilitate the transition to post-school opportunities.

Indeed, readiness means different things to different people. Sometimes, readiness is described in terms of age or stage of development. At other times, checklists of readiness skills and knowledge are used to identify what children should be able to do or know before they start school. Still other definitions of readiness emphasise social, emotional, curricula and infrastructural aspects.

As communities reiterate the importance of education, as families seek to support their children's success in education, and as educators face increasing calls for accountability, there is renewed attention to notions of the readiness of schools to receive and educate our future leaders on a daily basis.

In any definition of readiness for school, learners and the schools they attend are important. That is why the Gauteng department of education has pro-actively monitored public schools on a quarterly basis to ensure that all schools are ready for the 2017 academic year.

To date, there are 2368264 learners enrolled in Gauteng schools. An increase of 105945 learners was recorded between 2015 and 2016. This represents an increase of 4.47%. Rapid in-migration remains a contributing factor to the growth in learner numbers. The department is grateful for the cooperation it has received from parents who heeded the call to use the online system.

At the beginning of 2017, more than 40000 learners have still not been placed. The department will work around the clock to place all these learners and inform the parents.

When we consider readiness for schools, we must consider the role of families, schools, communities and government. After all, children do not live in isolation - they are members of many different groups and interact in many different contexts. Families and communities provide critical support systems for children. They nurture school readiness gradually over time and as children and families engage in a range of experiences. Communities have another important role to play in defining and shaping perceptions of readiness. The government and communities provide infrastructure and social links that together make up social capital. The government and communities with high levels of social capital provide a range of benefits for children through relationships that exist and the availability of resources. Physical resources, such as schools, child care and health services, are important. So, too, are rich relationships that buffer and support families.

Schools and curricula must be designed to meet children's individual learning needs and communities and governments can support readiness by offering various levels and types of support - as well as opportunities that assist parents and communities to meet the developmental needs of young children.

While it is particularly important to consider learners as individuals as they start school, it is equally important to acknowledge that children do not exist in isolation - they are members of families, communities, cultural and friendship groups, and so on.

The GDE wishes all our learners the best of luck in 2017.

Lesufi is Gauteng education MEC

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