New schooling system. Can SA cope?
Teachers discuss their views on the proposed three stream schooling system.

In a recent article in News24 we learnt about the new schooling system proposed by the Department of Basic Education. 

Read more: New school system planned for 2017

If the system is put in place for 2017 pupils will be divided into three different educational streams, depending on their strengths and weaknesses: the academic stream (which is much the same as the current system), the technical occupational stream (including hands-on subjects like woodwork, panel-beating etc) and the technical vocational stream (i.e. engineering and technical drawing).   

While many seem positive about the new education system and its efforts to decrease South Africa's high drop out rate, others are apprehensive about the execution of the system in some of our schools which have minimal access to resources.  

We chatted to teachers and got their views on the matter.

What do teachers think?  

"Streaming adolescents into different schooling pathways based on their ability, interests and talent is common practice in many countries. On a theoretical level this plan can certainly address the deficit in our labour market for skilled artisans, for example. It can also help match a learner to the most suitable pathway, which is certainly not an academic stream for many. But I am worried that it represents a duplication of efforts (and costs) of the existing FET college sector, which has most of the same aims as this new plan. Is this duplication possible because FET colleges fall under the Department of Higher Education, while high schools fall under the Department of Basic Education? 

Furthermore, this plan is not something that the Department of Basic Education should rush into - the implementation year of 2017 seems overly ambitious. Without the following three aspects solidly in place, it will fail, and it will dash the hopes of many young people: (i) a well-developed curriculum for each subject, drawing on industry expertise (ii) high-quality learning support materials for each subject (iii) teachers that are well-trained in the subject."

-Dorette Louw: consultant for publishing and education

"First of all, there are a lot of mixed ideas and thinking on the streaming of the system as a whole: whether it works, whether it doesn’t, the pros and the cons.

It’s definitely not clear-cut.

A lot of countries do use streaming while a lot of other countries think it’s absolutely crazy to even consider streaming systems. Japan, for example doesn’t consider it.

The biggest problem in South Africa with streaming, especially in public schools, is that it could perpetuate socio/political influences. In the case of former model C schools, you’ll have well resourced schools, well resourced kids (which are currently still predominantly white) in all your top sets leaving the under resourced kids in the bottom sets.

So the new system could potentially perpetuate the problems from previous systems, which is sociologically dangerous.   

It’s worth looking at this in a broader sociological context, not just in a sort of ‘educational vacuum’.

Another big part of the problem is that education and western education as a whole is based on the concept of meritocracy (merit based reward) where essentially, you supposedly get what you work for yet home environments are so varied.

The problem with this meritocracy is it only works when all variables are equal. And unfortunately, same school, same teacher and same syllabus is not enough. It's important to understand that kids going to the same school in the same uniform, writing the same exams with the same teachers don't "get" why other kids don't do as well as they do. They assume that it's all down to laziness and don't really understand their privileges. 

Streaming is more of the same. Trying to change the school variables. Not the external ones that almost matter more." 

-Anonymous Cape Town high school teacher.

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