I think it is an absolute tragedy that our schools are letting us down to such an extent that children have to be re-taught the basics in order to enter not only institutions of higher learning, but FET colleges as well. Out of every 20 young people tested for the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) readiness at level 2 (post Grade 9), at least 3 out of every 5 are not at the appropriate mathematics or language proficiency level! These young people have to be re-trained so that they are not set up for failure, not only wasting valuable time but also money. Since the bursaries are only paid out if the student passes, colleges can no longer register just anyone who is interested in studying further, but have to ensure that they are at the appropriate level and stand a good chance of passing.
We need not view this as being particular to South Africa. I have just returned from a visit to London and the fact that so few young people have passed the GSE exam, made headline news there. The complaint was that young people can no longer read, write or do sums. This is a sad situation indeed and hopefully education systems worldwide will take a wakeup call and realise that we are raising a whole generation of dummies. I believe it is time that we returned to basics – and that means teaching children to read, write and do arithmetic. Time for creativity comes when the foundations are there.
In the meantime, I support the initiatives of the Setas to fund mathematics and language bridging programmes to enable our young people to support the principles of lifelong learning.