Mediocrity killing education: iLIVE
As an educationist with 40 years' experience, having taught at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels, I feel a moral compulsion to respond to the article "Trevor's plan unrealistic" (December 2).
I taught Minister Angie Motshekga philosophy of education when she was doing her honours in education at the now non-existent Vista University, Soweto campus.
For the last 17 years, various organisations have been involved in programmes aimed at improving the quality of education in South Africa.
It would be more correct to say these programmes have achieved nothing at all. Our education system continues to be one of the poorest in Africa, let alone the world. This is because we have an education system that feeds off and thrives on mediocrity.
I was teaching at one of the largest universities in the world. The course I offered was philosophy of education - compulsory for an honours degree in education.
I had about 1200 students in my course and had to mark assignments, and eventually the examination scripts. There were three assignments for the course. I asked how it was possible to mark such a large number of scripts and was informed - by the old hands - that all we had to do was mark one question out of possibly 10, allocate a mark to the question, round off the mark to a percentage and reflect this as the student's year mark.
I was told I had to attach a set of model answers for the unmarked questions.
My experience of teaching in this course was that 90% of the students couldn't string three words together to make a meaningful sentence. In the final examination, 90% of the students failed.
The head of department asked me why there was such a high failure rate in my course and why my pass rates deviated so drastically from those of the other modules in the degree. I said I could not answer for the other lecturers.
The situation was that the faculty - dependent on a state subsidy, which was determined by the pass rate - was pushing through people who did not deserve to pass. I was not prepared to "doctor" marks in order to perpetuate the cycle of mediocrity.
This is one of the pillars upon which our education system is constructed: incompetent teachers. Why not a competence-based pay system? Why can't we introduce a system that will establish, once and for all, whether or not teachers are competent?