Problems Facing South African Education System: The key to growth and development of any nation rests on the education of the citizens of that nation. A sound educational system is pivotal to national development. Likewise, a faulty education system has far reaching negative effect on national development. A nation that wishes to be accorded respect in the comity of nations must as a matter of fact, educate her citizens. The value of her citizens determines the value that will be attached to her.
It is in the light of this that national governments set up education boards to address the educational needs of a country. The South African authorities in their bid to put up a solid educational base for the country made policies to that effect. The efforts of the South African government on education are laudable, however, they are not without some peculiar challenges. To this end,this piece intends to give a brief overview of the education system in South Africa while also highlighting the problems/challenges faced by the system.
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Brief Overview Of South African Education System
The education system in South Africa is sructured in such a way that it gives both vocational and non vocational (academic) training to students. The formal education structure falls into three broad categories to wit:
1. General Education and Training;
2. Further Education and Training; and
3 Higher Education and Training.
Before these three broad categories, there is the pre foundation stage which is usually for children between the ages of 0-5 years. At this stage, children are taught at home or in special education centres. This stage is not compulsory and most provincial governments do not even make laws to that effect.
The General Education and Training (GET) Stage is a compulsory 9 years period of training which has three phases. The Foundation phase is the first phase of this stage and it is for pupils between the ages of 6-9 years with Grade Levels 0-3. Junior Primary Schools offer education at this phase.
The next phase is the intermediate phase with senior primary schools offering education to students between the ages of 9-12 years. Grade Levels are 4-6. The last phase in the GET Stage is the Senior Phase which is secondary school for students between the ages of 12-15 years. Grade Levels are 7-9. At the end of the GET Stage, students are awarded the ‘General Education and Training Certificate‘.
The Further Education and Training stage is for a duration of 3 years and it is offered by senior secondary schools for students between the ages of 15-18 years. Grade Levels are Grades 10-12 and successful students get a ‘Senior Certificate’.
The Higher Education and Training Stage is carried out by Universities and other degree awarding institutions. It is usually between the ages of 18-21.
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Problems of the South African Education System
Just as every system has its ups and downs, the education system in South Africa is not without its own problems and challenges. This part of the work focuses on the challenges or problems of the South African educational system.
The challenges of the South African education system can best be viewed from three perspectives: challenges faced by learners (students), challenges faced by the teachers, and indirect challenges caused by extraneous factors. These challenges will be considered.
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1. Challenges Faced by the Learners (Students): The environment in which students learn ought to be safe and secure. A safe, secure and serene atmosphere of learning is essential for the development of a child. The school (learning) environment in South Africa is sometimes faced with hostilities, violence and riots which have impeded proper learning.
Outbreak of violence is almost an everyday occurrence in schools in South Africa. When riots and acts of violence occur the disruption of the academic process is imminent as students cannot learn comfortably in an atmosphere of danger. Also, violence affects the students emotionally and psychologically. This in turn affects their level of comprehension and assimilation of things that are being taught.
The rate of drop out, truancy and absenteeism exhibited by students negatively affect their development, thereby, having a long term negative influence on the education system. Again, the interest of students in science based or related courses in the country is on a high decline.
In a world where almost everything is scientifically and technologically driven, it becomes a thing of worry to find out that majority of the students who gain admission into the Higher Education Stage usually opt for courses in social sciences or purely art courses. This poses a threat to the technological development of the nation.
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2. Challenges Faced by Teachers: For any education system to be efficient, effective and capable of delivering quality services, the welfare of teachers need to be given priority. A system which has poor remuneration policies for teachers will be met with constant strikes and lock outs.
Neglect of their welfare portends evil and only few will be willing to give their all in the delivery of quality education. This will definitely have a negative toll on the quality of education offered. The issue of unqualified teachers being employed in the system makes it even more difficult to have an education that will compete favorably with their counterparts around the globe.
Also, inexperience on the part of School governing bodies will surely affect the outcome of teachers. Where the supervisors of a system lacks what it takes to effectively manage that system, there is bound to be crises. This is the case of the South African education system as the governing bodies lack the necessary skill to effectively supervise educators/teachers for efficient output.
3. Indirect Challenges Caused by Extraneous Factors: These revolve around lack of community support to schools cited in their locality. Most communities do not give the needed attention to schools within their locality. They see the schools as that of the government and therefore, they do not assist the school with infrastructures needed to aid in the delivery of quality education to students.
Another such factor is the level of poverty prevalent in some provinces in the country. Some provinces lack the economic wherewithal to sustain the education system. The residents of those provinces also lack the means of educating their children. Some of the schools at the Further Education Stage are privately owned and they are quite expensive.
With the prevalent level of poverty in these provinces, only the few rich or well to do citizens can actually afford the means to educate their children and wards. There thus exists a huge gap in the quality of education between the provinces with a high poverty rate and the provinces with lower poverty rate.
Furthermore, corruption in the administration of school/education funds negatively affects the output of education in the country. Where funds meant for the purchase of specific education materials are not channelled into such; or where materials are provided but done lately due to negligence of those in authority, the impact of such on the education system cannot be anything but negative.
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In conclusion, the education system in South Africa is well structured as students gain both vocational and academic training. However, there are challenges which has inhibited the system from actualizing the aim for which it was structured. These challenges are however, not insurmountable as the necessary authorities can actually do more to nip these challenges in the bud.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.