This list consists of just a few things that irk me about education in South Africa. It is intended as a think-piece. Some of the ideas might be a little close to home for some, and they will either bury their heads in the sand or come out swinging, but I believe that most of it will resonate with the kind of teacher who will read this in the first place.
50 things I am tired of about education in South Africa…
- People blaming the Government / OBE / CAPS for all of our problems.
- Complaints about a lack of resources from teachers who never buy a newspaper, or think about using what they have creatively.
- Large classes and mass teaching.
- The belief that ‘edtech’ on its own will solve all of our problems.
- Teachers who believe that using PowerPoint is innovative.
- The government trying to remedy poor performances in schools by targeting numeracy and literacy – while the Arts and Humanities are pushed to the side.
- Students no longer being able to skip a grade.
- Schools shutting down extra-mural programmes.
- The fact that people in this country still cannot use the apostrophe properly, and say ‘your’ when they mean ‘you’re’.
- Using the word ‘failure’ when a child is not yet ready to progress.
- Teachers and heads of schools who have never heard of Ken Robinson.
- Teachers and heads of schools who have never heard about TED.
- Our allergic reaction to allowing students to tinker and try and fail a few times before getting it right.
- The fact that so few educationalists seem to know why Finland is succeeding so well in education.
- Teachers who use their holidays to ‘go away’ and then complain that there is never enough time to explore innovative education opportunities.
- The strange sense of entitlement by teachers and students alike – what happened to EARNING it?
- Teachers in private schools waved away for not being ‘in the trenches’.
- Teachers at government schools being thought of as not good enough to teach at a private school.
- Our test- and exam- driven school culture. Universities demanding ‘thinkers’ and then selecting entrants based on exam results.
- Our lack of alternatives to mainstream ‘academic’ schools.Some kids want to learn about fixing an airplane, not about what Shakespeare was trying to say in Act 3, Scene 1 of Othello.
- The word ‘academic’. Very few actually know what the word means – and those who do never use it in a school environment.
- The amount of teachers who have never heard of a taxonomy of cognitive skills, much less applied it in assessments.
- People who think that school uniforms worn properly are a sign of respect.
- Teachers who expect to be respected by their students but still do not know their names.
- Teachers who jealously guard their ‘prep files’ (with much of the contents being over 5 years old).
- One of the worst: teachers who refer to their matric students as ‘candidates’.
- People who still use the words ‘learner’ and ‘educator’ when they mean ‘student’ and ‘teacher’, as if by calling it something more all-encompassing, you will make it so.
- Teachers who say ‘that doesn’t apply to me / my subject”.
- Privileging the curriculum over the student.
- Rewarding good test-takers with ‘academic colors’.
- Telling students to sit still, be quiet and ‘do their work’ / ‘listen’.
- The amount of teachers who have never heard about metacognition.
- Not understanding that boys and girls need to be taught differently.
- Teachers who are afraid to have their students appraise them.
- Teachers who teach ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ from notes or a textbook.
- Teachers who do not teach critical thinking or problem-solving.
- Teachers who are more upset about when the coffee runs out than when professional development opportunities are scarce.
- Government training which consists of someone reading something at me.
- Moderation that isn’t moderation.
- Educationalists referring to themselves as professionals because they dress smartly.
- Headmasters using the word ‘tradition’ when they actually mean ‘outdated values’.
- Schools being judged on their first team rugby results.
- Deputy principals saying they cannot drive innovation because they are too busy ‘putting out fires’ on a day-to-day basis.
- The entrenched belief that Maths and Science are somehow superior to subjects like Drama and History. Why?
- Teachers who say ‘you will need this subject to get a job one day’… No they won’t.
- The amount of university graduates who expect to walk into a middle management job.
- Inter-school rivalry.
- Grade 8s and 9s ‘stressing about exams’.
- The fact that so few of us seem to want to change all of this.
- Teachers having their kids at the same school.
Update (November 2014): A few more as suggested by that legendary South African teacher, Tony Hambly:
- Schools that insist that teachers have to set homework – even when there is nothing meaningful to set. Remember that homework was invented by boarding schools to keep their pupils occupied after supper.
- Giving first preference of interactive boards to Maths teachers when other subjects have a far greater need.
- Employing professional sports coaches at higher salaries than the headteacher.
And on a lighter note, check out the ‘Terrible Teacher’ meme at: http://memebase.com/2011/09/06/memes-introducing-terrible-teacher/
And the rebuttal at:
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