Category Archives for "Education"

Why South Africa needs as much elite education as possible

Every time a multi-millionaire spends a ridiculous amount on private schooling, we should all applaud.

Why South Africa needs as much elite education as possible

Every year, somebody posts on Facebook how much South Africa’s most expensive schools cost, and people, as is their wont, take glee in expressing outrage that our country has lots of wealthy people in it willing to spend massive amounts on schooling.

And every year, I wonder why the same outrage is not directed against people shopping at Woolworths, buying their own car or house, or going to private hospitals.

The reason why is fairly clear, I think – we all recognise how powerful a quality education is. And thus we fear elitism in education more than in any other sphere.

But that’s exactly the wrong attitude to have – elitism in education is not only necessary, but desirable. Continue reading

Maths and Science Can’t Save Our Country

The so-called STEM subjects won’t save education, nor our economy.

maths and science

The latest student riots have put education in the spotlight. The students are re-deploying an old argument of the intellectual and political establishment – education can save our society (particularly the sciences) therefore it should be free for all.

The irony is that the violence of the riots and the lack of any meaningful dialogue around the conflict only shows the need for a new kind of education that goes beyond just preparing people for the workplace.

We need an education that helps us see and understand the big issues that have always either inspired or plagued human beings.

Simply getting a basic degree is not going to be enough anymore, if we are going to resolve all our national crises. Continue reading

We Didn’t Start The Fire – It Was Always Burning

As cities and universities burn in South Africa and the US, our ‘hashtag’ movements give us a glimpse of both the past and the future.


It is an intriguing coincidence that when one watches the news these days, the images coming from the US are almost exactly the same as those coming from South Africa.

What’s more, both have a hashtag at the heart of the burning, looting, and rioting – namely #BlackLivesMatter for the US, and #FeesMustFall for South Africa.

Is it a coincidence?

I don’t think so.

I think the movements stem from the same social force, brought to life by similar social conditions.

But before we try to understand that force, it’s worth simply recounting the brief history of both movements. Continue reading

Progressive Education Has Failed

In the ’90s, South Africa got caught up in the ideological warfare of western education.

Progressive education has failed

We put in place a progressive philosophy of education – or, Outcomes Based Education (OBE) – and meaningful curriculum was subsumed in a storm of paperwork, group-work, child-based learning, all of which left the average working class kid completely bewildered.

As usual, the richer middle class did alright because they grew up in homes with books et cetera.

So why did this happen? The government basically wanted to make a political statement – a bold repudiation of apartheid era, teacher-centred, chalk and talk, authoritarian-style education (an understandable position).

But they went too far. They ended up throwing out the basics of teaching a solid curriculum. They realise this now – if one is to read between the lines of the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). But CAPS does not go far enough.

It’s time to turn the page on our two most recent and failed eras of education. Continue reading

Shut Down the Education Department!

Should government be trusted with shaping the citizenry?


Over the next week or so I am focusing on education. As a teacher and political writer, I have some ideas on how to fix our country’s shameful blight, and I am going to share three pieces on this issue over the next few days.

A few years ago, in the wake of hearing some shocking exam results from government schools in the Western Cape, I wrote a piece for the Cape Argus arguing that the Department of Education should be shut down, and the education budget handed over to school governing bodies as subsidies and to parents in the form of fee vouchers.

I still stand by that idea. Continue reading