Monday, June 11, 2012

The other extreme: An Over-emphasis on Education

I was surprised when I started teaching practice and discovered that most schools end by 2pm. The school I'm going to for my long TP starts at 7:20 and ends at 13:00. This is apparently to give more time to extra murals. I have vivid memories of my school day lasting from 5:30, when I caught the bus to school, until 4:30, when it dropped me off at home. That left roughly an hour or two for watching TV and doing homework, before dinner and spending time with my family.

Extra murals were included in the timetable, with set periods devoted to ridiculous things like "skateboarding club" and "cake decorating/wedding planning" (cunningly described as "Empowered Women's Education"). And yet I never felt that my day was too long.

South Africa's learners are waaay behind their global counterparts in literacy and mathematics, according to various tests that have been carried out by Big Important Organisations.

Would it then be worth borrowing some strategies from more successful countries, like Korea and Japan, who have a greater emphasis on education?

After reading my friend and former tutor's article, "South Korea's National Obsession with Education", I'm not so sure any more. Deva talks about how Korea's school system is working these kids to the bone, but she questions whether any learning is actually given a chance to happen.

 So how can we learn from them, or from their mistakes? Well, I think that we should be looking more at quality, rather than quantity. Skilled, passionate teachers who encourage creativity and spark their students' imaginations seem preferable to teachers with enough stamina to maintain the required energy for 16 hours of teaching. Not to mention an education department that does what it's supposed to, and allocates teaching posts, resources and funds where they are needed, when they are needed.

Local students protesting over the Education Department's failure to allocate teachers to permanent posts, and their failure to pay temporary teachers, which resulted in a prolonged strike and go-slow by two major Teachers' unions.

As long as there is school, with teachers and proper lessons being taught properly, then we need not devote every waking minute to learning the three R's. Maybe finishing the school day early, and giving kids a chance to be kids, is of value after all. The fourth R is way more fun anyway - Recess!

1 comment:

  1. In high school (St Andrews), we had school from 8:15 till 13:30. Afternoons were for for sport or for loafing (for me). We did have 2 1/2 hours of study time each night though.

    Seeing what my kids study - they're doing a lot more work than I did at school in the same grades, and of a higher standard too. I feel sorry for them.