On 13 June 2011, the Roodepoort Northsider published an article by reporter Elanie Vermaak with the title : “Do our schools pass the test?” and subtitle “‘Private education’ offers no guarantees”.
In South Africa there is a national consensus that the public education system operated by the Department of Education is a dismal failure. This is the reason why private schools and homeschooling are growing exponentially. However in the article in the Northsider the reporter expresses a concern that private schools do not offer quality education. Unfortunately however, the reasons that she provides for these concerns do not make any sense.
The article opens with the following statement : “Every parent who invests in their child’s education certainly wants to be assured that the facility they attend offers the most appropriate curriculum and adheres to the correct standards and procedures.”
Everybody would be able to agree with this statement, depending what the reporter means with “most appropriate curriculum” and “correct standards and procedures”.
Everybody should agree with the reporter if “most appropriate curriculum” means the curriculum that is most appropriate for each learner, because the SA constitution requires that an individual child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning that child. Every learner is unique and there is not a single curriculum that is appropriate for all learners. One curriculum is appropriate for one learner and another curriculum is appropriate for another learner. That is why many homeschooling families use different curriculums for different children. That is why small schools would select a curriculum that is most appropriate for their learners. One would therefore expect that Elanie Vermaak would be positive about the wide variety of curriculums used by the different small private schools. However this is not the case. She is only concerned about the fact that the curriculums used in these private schools are not registered by Umalusi. To this reporter, the “most appropriate curriculum” means the single curriculum that is approved by the state.
Everybody should agree with the reporter if “correct standards and procedures” means the standards and procedures that are most appropriate for each learner. Every learner progresses optimally at a particular pace and every learner learns optimally by means of a specific learning approach. It is because parents can choose the appropriate learning standard and learning approach for each child, that many parents choose homeschooling or small schools. One would therefore expect that Elanie Vermaak would be interested in how the private schools choose the standards and learning approaches that are most appropriate for their learners. Unfortunately, what the reporter means with “correct standards and procedures”, is that private schools must be registered with the Department of Education.
If the Department of Education had a track record of prescribing curriculums, standards and procedures that transformed the South African educational system into one of the most successful in the world, the reporter’s definitions of the correct curriculums, standards and procedures might have made sense. Unfortunately the track record of the Department of Education is quite the opposite. According to the SA Education report of 2008, all international studies in which SA has participated in the last 14 years on a school level have ranked SA students last. South African education levels reflect that even when compared to other African countries, South Africa does very poorly.
Based on this, it would probably be more accurate to state that the curriculums, standards and procedures prescribed by the Department of Education has caused the failure of the South African educational system. If this is the case, then there is no reason to believe that success of private education can be guaranteed by complying to the requirements of the Department of Education. It is more probable that complying with the requirements of the Department of Education will guarantee failure, as has happened with the public schools.
To expect private education to comply with requirements with a track record of failure, in order to ensure the success of private education, makes no sense.