by Warren Hero

Education evolution

The changing landscape of education

Teach students to make a contribution and a difference
Changing landscape of education

Education is no longer about learning countless facts, but teaching students about making a contribution and a difference to our society while learning the basics. Good education impacts on the ability to make quality decisions. 

And yes, education is expensive – but before we complain about the cost, we should think about the price of ignorance.

In spite of rising costs, enrolment at tertiary institutions is increasing. In 2009/2010 there were more than 800 000 higher education students in South Africa, and more than 100 000 attended colleges for further education and training (FETs). In 2011/2012 there were 870 000 higher education students, while FET students had doubled to 200 000.

Government allocated R26 billion to education in 2011 and R35bn in 2012. This means 9% of government spend went to education last year, compared to an average of around 7% in other countries.

South Africans are eager to gain qualifications, and all components to create the future are within reach, but still unevenly distributed in the population.

This uneven distribution needs to be addressed, and here, technology can play a huge role. Millions can benefit by making learning material available for free online, or by the 'gamefication' of the learning process, where learning material becomes part of an online game students have to master. Research has shown that students who use games to learn have a far higher knowledge retention rate than those who follow traditional ways.

We live in the Internet age, and we can look up any information. What our children need to learn is how to navigate and integrate that information. 

We need to work on reaching social equity by erasing poverty and improving our education system. If poverty is not successfully addressed, we will simply perpetuate the current situation.

The passing standards from schools to university need to be aligned and to become consistent. This is the main course of the current 60% university dropout rate. Although big steps have been taken to improve equity and access to higher learning institutions, we are not setting up our students for success. Students arrive at universities unprepared and struggle to cope.  

By aligning passing standards and preparing our pupils for tertiary study while still at school, we won’t need bridging courses that cost parents even more.

Career guidance at schools requires attention. Students show up at universities to enrol for their first year of study, having no idea of what course to take or what career they want to follow later in life. 

Students must be encouraged to study hard at school in order to enter university. They need a vision of how they want to contribute to society as adults, about developing themselves and playing a role in their communities. 

The private and public sectors must take responsibility to develop our youth and to realise their dreams. When companies grant learnerships, the young people accepting them should not be seen as simply a pair of extra hands, but should be taught about business, competition and co-operation.

Our students need to be able to answer one question: Of what value am I to society? In order to do this, they have to understand what the community and the employment market need. Higher education institutions must also be geared to respond to the needs of community and market, and deliver the right kind of graduate.

Finally, South Africans – young and old – need to work on their ability to think for themselves, to be able to form their own opinions and to participate in matters of culture, trade and communication in a proactive manner.

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