Government's skewed focus on education.

On 15 May 2022, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education published the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill for public comment.

This Bill seeks to amend a multitude of provisions of both the South African Schools Act (SASA) and the Employment of Educators Act (EEA), most of which results in the introduction of additional red-tape for school governing bodies and persons electing to educate their children by virtue of ‘home education’.

Apart from administrative headaches, none of the proposed amendments have any mentionable effect on improving the quality of basic education.

Although the ‘Memorandum on the Objects of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill’, states that the amendments are proposed “so as to align them with developments in the education landscape, and to ensure that systems of learning and excellence in education are put in place in a manner which respects, protects, promotes and fulfils the right to basic education enshrined in the Constitution”, these amendments will all be for naught with reference to the true improvement of basic education.

However, parents and guardians considering ‘home schooling’ their children, will have to gear themselves to jump through all the additional hoops in order to qualify for approval of home education, the continuance of home education and the proper assessment of the learner’s abilities.

One should ask why home schooling, in a country possessing a multitude of public and private schools, has become so popular that extensive regulation thereof was necessitated?

Here’s why:

  • parents are fed up with the complete and utter nonsense being incorporated into the so-called ‘curriculum’, that they are no longer willing to expose their children to such worldly smut (including but not limited to pre-mature sex education, liberal gender theories and pseudo-social justice paradigms);
  • the enormously poor educational outcomes of public schools, paired with the general lacklustre attitude towards grade failure with mark adjustments and condonations;
  • insufficient resources and learning materials at public schools;
  • low skill and poor commitment of educators;
  • extremely poor infrastructure and complete lack of safety and sanitation at public schools; and
  • lack of sufficient methods of and opportunities for transport to and from school.

Although the apparent motivation to ‘better basic education’ is commendable, Government is urged to focus on resolving the true and most basic issues of our education sector as listed above.

Amending the educational laws will not address the issues experienced by South Africa’s education sector, unless certain fundamental issues are addressed. The Government is compelled to take the following actionable steps in order to ensure that the youth of this country receive the best possible educational value-add:

  • appointing a Minister of Education who comprehends the true needs of the education sector and who is dedicated to bettering the basic education of all South African youths;
  • designing a national, independent capability test in language and numeracy for all learners after every phase (foundation-, intermediate- and senior phase) before allowing the learner to progress to the next phase;
  • dropping unnecessary and non-value adding subjects from the curriculum and focussing more time, effort and resources on the ‘basics’ such as language (speaking, reading and writing), maths and numeracy, science and technology;
  • ensuring, by whatever means necessary, that all teachers on the State’s payroll are sufficiently qualified and competent to be teaching the youth in their respective fields;
  • improvement of the infrastructure of schools in need, including the provision of adequate transport; and
  • promotion of more dedicated involvement and support from parents and communities.

It is essential for our country to develop education systems that allow as many children as possible to go to school and seek an education of a high quality to enable them to enter the labour market and contribute to the economy.

Although the Government seems to attempt in amending legislation with the purpose of bettering the school system and education of South Africa, their focus is skewed. The Government, at all times, together with the legislator, need to focus all their energy, resources and time towards rational and necessary changes to the education sector. 

By Rona Bekker, the Senior Policy Advisor at the National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA).