If ever there was a year when parents and children lost freedom in education, it was 2014. Public schools lost the freedom to choose textbooks, pupils lost freedom to choose subjects, compulsory school attendance is extended, the administrative burden of private schools increases and National Curriculum is extended to birth. All these changes were announced by the Minister of Basic Education, without anyone making much of a fuss.
Public schools lose choice of textbooks
In 2012 Tuisskolers.org pointed out that the centralization of purchasing textbooks will reduce the freedom of schools to choose appropriate textbooks. Schools can no longer choose which books they want to buy, but are only able to choose from a catalogue drafted by the National Department of Education. In the meantime this has been implemented. Schools have a choice of about eight different books per subject.
In her 2014 budget speech , the Minister of Education announced that this choice will now be taken away, since only one book per subject will be available. This implies that the state is now in full control of all content that children learn in public schools. Parents and schools have no say about it. This is the end result of the process that Prof. Kader Asmal started in 2002 with the promulgation of a National Curriculum Framework.
Pupils lose more subject choices
Another thing that is currently being considered ; is to make the subject of history compulsory. This implies that all learners are compelled to learn the state's interpretation of history from a single state prescribed textbook.
At present pupils who follow the national curriculum follow seven (7) subjects. Four (4) are mandatory (2 languages, Mathematics / Mathematical Literacy, Life Orientation) and three (3) subjects are electives. Pupils therefore have the freedom to choose 42% of their subjects. In the event that history is also made compulsory, their freedom will be reduced to 28%.
The fact that this compulsory subject will be history also indicates where the priorities of the state lie. While neither business leaders nor economists have ever complained about a shortage of skills in the field of history, it is this subject that is being made compulsory. The purpose of this step can therefore be seen as nothing other than the indoctrination of next generation by the ideology of the state.
Compulsory school attendance is extended
According to the South African Constitution, everyone has the right to basic education. To enforce this, school attendance in South Africa is compulsory from age 7 to 15 years. Most South African children receive this compulsory education in public schools. Unfortunately, most these schools operate so poorly that, for all practical purposes, many children in South Africa receive no education at all. If the negative effects of bullying, peer pressure, violence, drugs etc. in schools is taken into account, it could be argued that these children mostly receive the opposite of education at public schools.
The Department of Basic Education has announced it is considering extending statutory school-going age to ages 5 to 15 years. This means that many children in South Africa will receive the opposite of education for an even longer period. In doing this the minister undermines the right to education even more, because children will be exposed to the adverse effects of public schools even earlier.
Also, the little freedom which former model-C schools previously have, is further constrained by an initiative of the Gauteng province to pair schools in rich and poor areas together under one governing body, with one bank account.
Monitoring of private schools increased
The state is hostile to private education, as it is regarded as a vote of no confidence in public education. Although the Constitution gives citizens the right to independent schools, the government uses a constitutional provision that private schools must be registered as a tool to regulate private schools in a manner it will soon be affordable only for rich people. (Where the ministers can send their children)
The state places an enormous administrative burden on private schools to register and remain registered. This year the state increased that burden even more by the adoption of a policy that private schools must be monitored by Umalusi. According to a report, the costs of assessment for a school of about 600 pupils will rise from about R7000 per year to R70 000 per year. In addition to these costs private schools are required to do a lot of administration in preparation for Umalusi inspections. Some schools will have to appoint extra staff for this additional administration.
The strategy of the state to limit private schools by over-regulation is already bearing fruit, as the Department of Basic Education reports that there has not been significant growth in this sector.
National curriculum is extended to birth
The Department of Education announced that the national curriculum framework will be extended to prescribe the knowledge, skills and attitudes children should learn from birth to age 4. The preschool curriculum consists of six learning areas, namely wellbeing (such as the enjoyment of constitutional rights, healthy food and good health), identity and sense of belonging, communication, discovery of mathematics, creativity and knowledge & understanding of the world.
This curriculum will be used to monitor registered day care centres and nursery schools more intensively. As from September it will be tested in 100 centres, thereafter it will be made available to all registered day care centres. If all day care centres are to register and are to be monitored to follow this curriculum, it would mean that the government has complete control over the content of what children learn from birth to Gr. 12.
The way forward
The state is working to transform education into a system where children from birth to 15 years only learn a few skills to be productive citizens, but are mainly conditioned in the ideology of the state. No teachers' union, school association, church community, shadow minister or political party are doing anything significant to stop this transformation. Parents who want the freedom to choose education that is in the best interest of their children, are on their own.
For parents with an average income, home schooling is about the only form of education where parents still have a say. From the draft policy which was released by the Western Cape Department of Education, and from the planned policy of the National Department of Education which was leaked earlier this year, it is clear that the intention of the state is to transform home education into an alternative channel through which public education be give under complete control of the Department of Education.
Should home educating parents allow the planned transformation to be introduced, as parents whose children attend public schools and private schools did, then home education will soon only constitute state education at home. Leendert van Oostrum puts it as follows: "With the current process of reviewing home education policy, law and regulations, Home schooling in South Africa is on the threshold of its most serious crisis in twenty years. Homeschoolers who cherish the education of their children will need to make their voices heard in no uncertain terms over the next year or so."
Home Educators can stop this transformation only if they stay informed and stand together in unity.
Stay informed with independent information as follows:
- Join the website of the Association for Home schooling
- "Like" the Facebook Page of the Association for Homeschooling
- Follow the Society on Twitter with the name @sahomeschoolers
- Download the "sahomeschoolers" App on your phone (available on Apple App Store and Android Google Play)
Join home schooling organizations and support their campaigns
- Join the provincial and/or national Associations to Homeschooling to represent parents' interests.
- Join the Pestalozzi Trust to protect you against unlawful interference in home education.