Sokana(2010:1) quoted African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, to say that “Education will solve poverty, unemployment and growing inequalities in South Africa. Education comes up as a priority in solving all these problems. It enabled people to break the chain of poverty and contribute to the economy. The Freedom Charter stated that basic education would be free and compulsory for all children.
A word of caution for free education however, is always wise. A distinction must be made between the right for education and obligation that goes along with such a right. The risk is that society may develop a belief that its education is the responsibility of government, leading to the pendulum swinging in favour of the scholastic control of our learning. This brings the added risk that governments can manipulate education to suit their own agendas and as such, undermine the value of democracy.
“The doors of learning and culture shall be opened, sets out principles of free, universal, compulsory and equal education, promise to wipe out illiteracy, and undertakes to remove all cultural, sporting and educational color bars” Sokana(2010:1). The first 12 years of learning must be able to give children the basic skills to enter the labour market. It must never happen that a child is deprived of education because of their family’s economic status (Freedom Charter: 10). A compelling argument in favour of (at least basic) free education is the fact that uneducated citizens are in nobody’s interest, not government, not society and certainly not the uneducated individual. However, the degree of control of the scholastic system, which is ultimately government controlled, is to be debated. In this instance the right or wrong answer is not the point, but debate and engagement is. As long as we can, as a human race, allow ourselves to be intellectually challenged into heuretic thinking, our chances of evolving into more advanced beings, are improved.
By allowing governments to decide what we read, believe and what we learn, we surrender who we are. We surrender our sole purpose and we lose our motivation to learn, to grow and to act, both spiritually and corporately. Therefore, the success and failure of our education system itself rests on its ability to be open and to allow itself to be challenged.
Thus, for the education system to be successful in the future, it will need to be more sophisticated than it is today. If we are to address the education backlog, the skills gap, poverty and productivity, in South Africa, the system will need to be more flexible and adaptive. The future system will have to demonstrate a commitment to an input side in the development of qualifications as never before.
These commitments should include the following:
- All qualifications should demonstrate a sense of understanding towards industry driven needs
- Scholastic educational needs will have to be considered, including aspects related to pedagogy and didactics
- Innovation skills will have to be a priority in developing qualifications and heuretic thinking will have to be evident in qualifications
- Certain industry-based training and workplace learning will have to carry educational credits and a qualification will have to indicate how credit can be accumulated over time
- Quality Assurance would have to be relevant, flexible and implementable
- Qualifications would have to become the benchmark of contextualization and move away from being recognitions for knowledge only.
Once these new requirements are all met, the development of an occupational profile could be developed, resulting into a qualification. The output of the qualifications will produce the following outcomes:
- Relevant performance and productivity
- Adaptive reasoning and change management
- Generic skills
- Reflective skills
- The ability to integrate the above skills into a diversified, integrated base.
One of the ways in which education can be brought to the masses, is the massification of delivery via e- learning. Various e-learning systems are available and many of the world’s leading universities are using a wide variety of such systems. Wankel and Kinglsley (2009) present a detailed discussion of the use of the system called “Second Life”. In this system, a virtual university can be built in virtual space. The net effect is a virtual university. Anderson (2007) explains how, with the use of the Internet, even small quantities of products such as music, can be sold, as storage cost are almost nothing on the servers where it is kept. The same applies to online education.