When you watch the news on TV today, you see workers on strike in cities around the world. In South Africa in 2010, COSATU embarked on a strike that lasted for weeks and was resolved not to the satisfaction of the workers.
You also hear of the failure of education in many countries; students who matriculate from school but are only semi-literate and university graduates especially in poor countries who cannot find employment.
The fact is that the world has changed considerably since the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century but work and education for ordinary citizens still follow the pattern of an industrial society, i.e., mass production.
The industrial society created the Worker. And during the twentieth century, the Worker was relevant in the scheme of things. Today technological advancement is making the Worker irrelevant. There no longer are as many jobs for human beings. And in South Africa workers do not have the skills required for new technologies.
Education still operates on the model of a factory where students are all given the same general education that does not equip them for living in a new world order. Schools are still training students for life in an industrial society where they have to seek employment and fit into a niche. Schools are still perpetuating dependency. The education that is provided is so generalised and so inadequate in skilling students for the world of work, that we have thousands who have nowhere else to go but to apply to universities where they continue on the road to nowhere – they become graduates who cannot find employment. They have been schooled for dependency.
We need to recognise that great geniuses of the world did not acquire their competences at school; they acquired them from within the family, where their interests were developed and nurtured
We either need to close down schools as Ivan Illich suggests so that students instead of being in pursuit of irrelevance, can become apprentices in pursuits which interest them, where they learn skills in real situations that provide training not only for particular tasks but also skills in business management. Such training would be relevant and would allow them to establish their own enterprises if they so choose. Those students who work in family businesses are a good example of this; they receive a relevant education from the family that enables them to set up in business for themselves if they so choose.
If we don’t close down schools, we need to recognise that schools based on the factory system of mass production have become irrelevant. They do not even adequately equip students with basic skills in the three Rs. We have to give up mass production. If we must have schools, then schools should become specialised. Once students have acquired real competence in the three Rs, as well as in basic science and technology, they should be allowed to go into specialist schools that will equip them for the careers in which they show interest. Every specialist school should include a business management component that is relevant to its field. Movement between schools should be a simple matter so that students can find where their interests lie before they commit themselves to a particular path. It should be possible for students to attend several specialist schools if they have diverse interests, like Einstein, a mathematician who played the violin.
All schooling should not be compulsory; only the elementary phase where basic skills are learned. And students should not be kept in the elementary phase once they have acquired the necessary competence. There should be no fixed period for each phase of schooling. As soon as a child is ready to move on, s/he must go to a specialist school or schools.
This means adopting an educational approach that allows students to progress at their own pace; that may mean applying Outcomes Based Methodology, not the horrendous mess that was recently made of it by turning OBE into a bureaucratic system of education made to fit into the mass education programme. Outcomes Based Methodology, when properly applied encourages individual, independent work of the STUDENT not the teacher. The use of an outcomes based approach, which is explained in simple terms in Steven Covey’s The Seven Principles of Highly Effective People, should be the prerogative of the teacher. Departments of Education should not be allowed to prescribe to schools. They should simply evaluate the work that is being done and only where schools are not effective set up consultation sessions that lead to improvement.
Most importantly, education should not follow that pattern of education that puts theory before practice. All education must allow students to be involved in practical work from which they derive the theories that have be learnt.
Students should be given a clear understanding of the relevance of their education to the society in which they live. They must understand where opportunities for self-employment exist in their chosen fields. They must not be led into the dependency syndrome that education at present encourages. The idea of creating an enterprise must be more firmly entrenched than finding a job. Finding a job must be seen as a last resort.
Students who wish to leave after acquiring basic education in order to set up their own enterprises or find work should be free to do so. Students should be free to attend or leave school at any stage. The purpose of the school must simply be to provide opportunities for those who wish to acquire knowledge and skills whenever they, the STUDENTS, feel the need to improve their education. Education must be easily accessible to all those who want it. There should be no age limit. Workers who discover that they need more knowledge and skills should have access to schools. So the school day should not be so tightly structured as it is today with lesson periods following in succession but rather with training sessions scheduled at intervals throughout the day and into the evening.