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SA's education mess far deeper than meets the eye

The Times Editorial | 2012-07-10 00:22:39.0

The Times Editorial: It is becoming apparent - if there was any doubt before - that we have huge issues to deal with to rectify the considerable mess in education.

The incompetence and lack of leadership might have been magnified by the scandalous Limpopo textbook crisis, but it is obvious that the problem is much broader.

Take, for instance, the latest revelation by the DA that pupils in the Eastern Cape received the incorrect workbooks. Xhosa pupils were sent Sotho books while Afrikaans and English pupils were handed Xhosa books.

The Eastern Cape has been in crisis mode for many years - not only in the field of education, which was placed under national administration last year, but in almost all other departments.

The government is defending action by publishers from Limpopo who allege the department had changed tender processes that had disadvantaged them.

It would be all too easy to blame current minister Angie Motshekga for the mess in which South African children have been landed.

But the mess predates her.

Since 1994, various education ministers have been experimenting with curricula, seemingly treating what was being taught in schools as a vanity project.

Those ministers have adjusted curricula, policies and strategies with dismal results.

Matric results have not significantly improved and neither have literacy and numeracy outcomes. Our children have been consistently outperformed by those from far less well-off African countries.

Even in the face of all this, education authorities have refused to accept their reality - that having rid us of an ideological and religious-based school system, they have been unable to find an alternative that is both realistic and workable for South Africa's particular challenges.

What we are seeing now, in all likelihood, is merely the tip of a problem that few of us can begin to understand.

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