by Catherine Pate

Three Musketeers for education

Strong partnership needed to address educational challenges

Strong partnership needed to adress educational challenges
Three Musketeers for education

Government should work with business and private educators to solve its educational challenges.

Government cannot resolve its education woes alone and financial support from business has been proposed as a solution to South Africa’s education challenges. However, is it realistic to expect South African business, which already contributes significantly through taxation, to part with more money in an attempt to fix such a large challenge, or has the time come for government to look at partnering with private providers of education to find solutions to South Africa's education challenges?

According to Cobus Oosthuizen, Dean of the Faculty of Management and Leadership at Milpark Business School, the role, impact and potential contribution of private educators to education in South Africa is grossly underestimated and unrecognised.

Being entrepreneurial at its roots, private providers of education are potentially rich sources of innovative solutions. A consideration would be for government – through its venture funding mechanisms – to promote the establishment of additional private schools, particularly in outlying and underserviced areas (lowering the barriers of entry for new providers) and to solicit expertise from successful private providers as coaches and mentors, as well as to facilitate the transfer of skills in relation to the management of a sustainable educational enterprise.

“Only the private education sector has the motivation and perspective to develop self-sustaining educational institutions. For this reason, government must involve the private sector and even allow it to acquire a significant stake in the education ecosystem’s success.  A good starting point would be candid conversation with reputable providers of private education and training,” advises Oosthuizen, who says that it would be a mistake to flood struggling schools with easy money. 

“Financial resources are but one part of a rather dysfunctional education ecosystem and pumping serious money alone into schools will not bring about significant change.” 

The challenge to education extends way beyond the availability of resources, and according to Oosthuizen, the fixation on funds as the primary problem in education is vastly overstated – a broader, ecosystem approach, inclusive of factors such as leadership, culture, support, human capital, infrastructure, quality assurance, policy, stewardship and finance, is required.

“The problem is not the problem; the problem is the attitude about the problem,” says Oosthuizen.  “If the attitude is only ‘to see companies committing real serious money’ to invest in public education, it is doubtful that we will achieve a sustainable education system.”

“Schools in dire need of turnaround should not be viewed as passive beneficiaries – it is not just about giving money or teaching teachers and principals about accountability – but about revolutionising the education industry. The approach should be to harness the power of the free market to solve the problems in the education system.”

Metaphorically speaking, it is not about giving a fish or even teaching how to fish – but about revolutionising the fishing industry.

“More is not necessarily merrier. An ecosystem approach is required to address school education’s distress, and the private education sector can play a pivotal role in bringing about positive change in education in South Africa,” concludes Oosthuizen.

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This edition

Issue 58