Hope for our system

A flawed education system is neglecting our youth and we are all guilty.

14 January 2020 | Education

Paul Fisher, retired school principal - It’s a real problem.

Iréne-Mari van der Walt

It’s no secret that the public education sector is struggling. We have heard the complaints of overcrowded classrooms, underfunded schools and drastic workloads for years and, until something drastic changes, we will keep hearing them.

Paul Fisher, a retired school principal from Narraville Primary School, feels that the biggest problem facing our education system is judging our fish by their ability to climb a tree.

Broaden the spectrum

“Our system is too academically driven; we forget about their talents,” he says.

He mentions that children could be academically inclined, linguistically inclined, physically inclined, creatively inclined or socially inclined. He believes that the current system benefits only a minority of students and he advocates for the return of vocational subjects to the school curriculum.

“It is expensive to offer these classes, but children get to fully immerse themselves through these classes,” Fisher says. He feels that ‘vocational’ subjects should be more practical than they are theoretical.

“The introduction of subjects like hotel management was introduced in response to the call for more vocational subjects but these subjects are still largely based on pen and paper. Children are not meant to sit and absorb information for that long.”

Lessen the load

Fisher feels that schools are pushing students to unnecessary limits with their workload.

“Nine subjects at junior secondary level is too much, give a student six subjects from grade eight so they can pay more attention to each individual subject,” he says.

Fisher stresses that students must have an indication of the career they would like to pursue. He explains that an overload of work can easily make school feel like an obligation.

New approach to teaching

Fisher has little faith in textbook-bound teaching. “The textbook is a guideline for the student; there is no use in reading through content a child does not understand with them,” he says.

He highlights the importance of teaching aids and the concept of teaching rather than lecturing.

“As a teacher, you must break information down into small, digestible parts for your students to take in. That is teaching; lecturing is for tertiary level,” he says.

Use some, lose some

Fisher thinks that the biggest corruptor of our education system is cellphones.

“Teachers and students alike walk into the school building completely immersed in their phones. It is a distraction in class; the teachers are interrupting lessons to be on their phones; children aren’t paying attention in class when they’re on their phones. It’s a real problem,” Fisher says.

He agrees that technology can be used for the benefit of education, but that the nature of students and teachers will not change.

“They want to be on social media, they want to play games, they want to chat with their friends and if you give them a phone, they will do that.”

There is room for improvement in our education system, but nothing will change until we do. We need to take affirmative action to change our situation. It is not solely the responsibility of a minister, principal, teacher, student or parent – it is all of us together.

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