Nov 2018

Education: It all comes down to the quality teaching

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Lets talk Education. Did u know that one of the major causes of underperformance in most schools is Teacher Overload. That is an instance where a teacher is allocated a workload of many different subjects to teach, often in different classes. This is a fairly accepted practice in most schools and it is as a result of the number of teachers allocated to that particular school (PPM or PPN as they call it). Its unintended consequences are that it leads to low teacher morale, leads to teachers scheming through the syllabus just to show that they have covered topics they are expected to teach (instead of drilling into the details of the subject), and crucially, it leads to ‘averageism’, a term I coin to denote a teacher who is not excelling in any of the subjects because his capacity is stunted by multiple focus. This has close affinities with Teacher Capacity (or lack thereof).

This practice is not as much prevalent in, for example, the former model C schools. How they have dealt with it there is by reducing significantly the workload of their teachers, supplementing the teacher body with many other School Governing Body (SGB)-paid teachers. Incidentally, in one gathering where I participated last week, one principal of a former model C school told me that only 30% of their teachers are paid by government. Parents and, often, the ‘old boys’ or ‘old girls’ shore up the school and pay for these extra teachers. As a result schools such as his do not struggle with issues of low teacher morale, ‘superficial’ teaching and lack of capacity. There is a deliberate investment in Teacher Development and Teacher Incentive for those who produce quality results, again often paid for by parents and the ‘oldies’.

I know the argument will be that township and rural schools are disadvantaged because average parents there do not have the means to assist schools and there are no ‘old boys’ and ‘old girls’ structures in the schools there. It’s a fair argument. In fact, very often parents work hours too long to be active participants and they don’t earn enough to supplement the school coffers (that is, if they work at all). Those who can assist are few and far between but are too busy with their own lives. 

But here is the truth: for as long as our township and rural schools (which happen to be in the majority) are not assisted to deal with the issue of Teacher Overload, unfortunately the status quo, where industry leaders are proliferated in the former advantaged schools as a norm and in the township and rural schools only as an exception, will remain. We shall continue to see children being migrated to these other schools in droves and the majority that cannot afford will breed the cycle of poverty back in the townships and rural areas. It’s simply untenable!

The fact is: we have nowhere else to go. This is our only country, and we need to build it ourselves. We cannot afford to leave the majority of our citizens languishing on the sidelines of the economy and keep pointing fingers at the government. They can only do so much! Our schools built us, it’s time we built them! Education, and schools in particular, are the nexus for any meaningful development of human capital that can lead to a thriving economy of a country. 

Imagine we clubbed as 1000 former students of a particular school and contributed R100 a month to our former school. That is R100 000 a month going to a school and R1.2 million per annum. If u rope in one or two corporates that takes the amount into a couple of millions (and resources on top). That can alleviate many problems that schools are grappling with. Importantly, it can help reduce Teacher Workload, contribute to Teacher Professional Development and Incentive, and also help boost the morale of teachers as well as build a solid new culture of excellence in that school. The honors is on all of us as beneficiaries of these schools to act and to act NOW.