Let me state at the outset that Outcomes Based Education  (OBE) is simply a good teaching and learning methodology.   Though it is called a system of education, it is not.  It is a methodology that has been mystified into some vague cabalistic cult, strangled with burdensome bureaucratic requirements and monitored and supervised to death.

OBE did not require total repudiation of the old system of education nor the jettisoning of old textbooks and materials.  It simply required an approach to teaching, learning, textbooks and materials that isn't merely a matter of spoon-feeding, but allows learners to be active rather than passive in acquiring knowledge and skills. Activity stimulates creativity, intellectual involvement, interest and leads to self-discovery.

OBE is not new.  Good teachers have always invented strategies that allowed learners to become actively  involved in the processes of discovery that make learning exciting.

So what then is this methodology called OBE?  It simply means setting out beforehand the knowledge and skills that have to be acquired and then devising the steps to achieve them.  We all do this all the time.

To use an analogy:

If you want to learn to drive, you know beforehand that at the end of a process:

  • 1) you must be able to drive
  • 2) you must obtain the licence that declares your competence.

These two, the ability to drive and the licence, are your outcomes. 

As you have identified them at the outset, they lead you to the steps that you must take to achieve them:

learning the rules of the road,

learning about a car,

driving lessons,

taking your test

obtaining your licence. 

Once you  complete the steps, you achieve your outcomes. You are a licensed driver

Setting outcomes is what we do all the time, in all areas of life:  in all crafts, carpentry, plumbing, baking, sports, drawing up a business plan, building a house, in the arts, in science, everything.  Even prayer.  

And the best books on OBE are not necessarily books on Education.  All books of instruction are OBE books.

Recipe books for example. 

You are shown a picture of the end result, the outcome, the cake etc that you wish to bake. 

You are given the ingredients.

You are given step-by-step directions for achieving the outcome. 

A book that has sold millions of copies, Stephen Covey's the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is really an  OBE book and can be summed up in the second habit, ‘BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.'   In other words identify your outcome and then take the action necessary to achieve it.

That is all that teachers need to know about OBE.

Instead they have been confused with all kinds of new materials and requirements. The approach to inducting teachers to OBE has not been an OBE approach. Teachers, the learners in this situation, needed the opportunity to discover for themselves. They should have been encouraged to identify outcomes and then to find their own strategies for achieving them.  They needed the freedom to discover their individual ways of achieving outcomes and then they would have been on the road to becoming creative teachers.

When methods are prescribed, then teaching becomes a bore and a chore. Teachers who are prescribed to will prescribe to learners.  (A case of the abuser passing on the abuse.) They will not understand that it is their function to send learners on processes of discovery because they have not been allowed to go on processes of discovery themselves.

OBE is not a complicated methodology when it is democratically applied.  Too much supervision has always been the bane of good teaching. 



6 February

The opening of parliament.  A grand spectacle. The red carpet, the march of military bands, parliamentarians in designer outfits; all to emphasise that amandla has nothing to do with awethu.  We did our colonial masters proud.  Then Kgalema Monthlanthe's State of the Nation address in which he pointed out the ANC successes of the past fifteen years and then a quote from Nelson Mandela's book which made the point that successes of the past have not yet wiped out the terrible legacy of apartheid, that there was still much to be done and that would take many more years to come. All the opposition parties found the speech lacking; all ANC members found it impressive, outstanding.

I was glad that the events of the past couple of years have made all parties aware of poor service delivery, of the need to build sustainable development and an economy which provides for the poor and unemployed.

When Jacob Zuma was interviewed, he made the point that in order to overcome skills shortages, people need on the job training. That makes sense.  I hope, however,  that people will not be burdened with SETA and SAQA requirements but will be allowed to learn freely from instructors to whom they are apprenticed, just as people used to in the old days.  I hope too that someone will see that it is not necessary to force children to matric level.  Those who are academically inclined will naturally aim at matric but those who are not should be allowed to leave once they have acquired basic literacy and numeracy skills and allowed to go into apprenticeships.  When they are ready for higher qualifications, they will do so as a result of being in the workplace and seeing the necessity for more training.  I hope too that the ruling party will make some attempt to allow mother tongue instruction in schools.  People wonder why our teachers and children struggle so with education.  It is so obvious.  It is difficult to learn through a foreign language.  A way should be found to allow children to learn through the mother tongue.  Where English is not the mother tongue or home language, it should be a second language with emphasis on communication and the ability to negotiate the demands of major subjects.

My personal feeling is that education has been severely hampered by the creation of SETAs and SAQA.