Basic Education: In pursuit of quality and stability in education intends to research the factors that impede the development and consolidation of national education provision.
Pursuing MISTRA’s strategic objectives and the overall national interest, the Eastern Cape education project speaks to the absolute urgency of the systemic nature of the current educational crisis. South Africa’s national and global stature can rise only if it meets the challenges of education. No area is more critical to the prospects of our future than education. The project thus is a cornerstone MISTRA priority project.
The project intends to research the overall complexity of converging factors that impede the development and consolidation of national curricula that aligns national education infrastructure with appropriate teacher-training, to meet both Constitutional and national socio-economic and macro-economic challenges. The research focus would highlight infrastructure and curricula imperatives, necessary to transform basic pupil performance from the current statistics negative national trend of “failure” of the system.
South Africa has the highest governmental spend on its systems of public education, around 5%-6% of gross domestic product (SA.info). Much of the last seventeen years of attempts at corrective policy inputs can be directly traced to the large unwieldy and diverse infrastructure inherited from the apartheid era. This includes the pupil component exceeding 12 million and more than 350,00 teachers. The physical component is greater than 30,000 schools in 70 districts spread over nine provinces (Sowetan 8/09/11).
Various national and international surveys have identified that South Africa’s educational system is in “deep crisis”. With regard to curricula implementation, diagnosis reveals that consistency has been lacking from conceptualisation, administrative planning and readiness to throughput. According to a report compiled by Higher Education South Africa (HESA) and presented to Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, many of the country’s first year university student’s cannot read, write or comprehend, to an acceptable standard. According to Theuns Eloff, chairman of Higher Education South Africa. University managers are concerned that the ability of high school graduates to read, comprehend and write is declining.
The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has said on record that there’s little doubt that South Africa needs to improve the quality of its education. The primary or essential part of this intervention required lies in basic education. Public articulations of the crisis have also been highlighted by Jon Lewis, research officer of the S.A Democratic Teachers Union. Lewis said that although the department of education’s policy statements were impressive to read in the abstract, for for many schools it was ‘mission impossible’. A 2008 report reveals that 42% of schools were overcrowded, 79% had no libraries, 68% had no computers and 60% had no laboratories (Institute of Race Relations). At a recent conference of principals at Durban’s Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, President Jacob Zuma asked why education policies had failed to deliver excellence and asked the assembly of educators what was to be done.
Against this background the administrative collapse of the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department is both symptomatic and threatening as it projects itself onto the entire educational system. The education project will thus address as its main objective ‘answers’ and recommendations to this most central of challenges facing South Africa’s human resource and economic future.