Topic 11: Which class-norms are informing the current education system in South Africa ?

When you grow up in a poor neighbourhood, the ‘way people do and say things’ will become the default expressions and behaviour in your life. However, when you enter school, you soon realise that there is something ‘different’ going on school, and that ‘what you know and how you do things’ don’t fit into the way they do things at school. Your default ways of doing things are NOT the default ways in the school. That mismatch is clarified by Ruby Payne in ‘A framework for understanding poverty’, when she states “Our school operates from middle-class (American) norms and uses the hidden rules of the middle class. We do not directly teach these rules to our students.”

What happened in South Africa is that the Apartheid Education System was designed on the international model of ‘Liberal Education’ for White Education, which is seeking “to develop free human beings who know how to use their minds and are able to think for themselves. Its primary aim is not the development of professional competence, although a liberal education is indispensable for any intellectual profession. It produces citizens who can exercise their political liberty responsibly. It develops cultivated persons who can use their leisure fruitfully. It is an education for all free men, whether they intend to be scientists or not.” (Mortimer Adler) However, the Apartheid government only used the systems (philosophy and beliefs) design of the Liberal Education system which was meant to produce ‘middle class thinking’, but changed the curriculum to represent and enforce their racial and separatism (Apartheid) ideas, as explained by Baard and Schreiner, in My Spirit is Not Banned – Part 2, “In 1953 the government passed the Bantu Education Act, which the people didn’t want. We didn’t want this bad education for our children. This Bantu Education Act was to make sure that our children only learnt things that would make them good for what the government wanted: to work in the factories and so on; they must not learn properly at school like the white children.” Come 1994, we rushed to get rid of the ‘Racial ideas’ as represented in the curriculum, but left the ‘Class ideas’ in tact. Our education system is still producing 50% dropouts between grades 1 to 12, as was the case before 1994.

In our methodology, we identify all those elements that are needed for learners to be successful in a ‘middle-class’ norm education system, which are not present in and as support structures in poor and marginalized families, and we introduce them in a systems and structured way into the operations of the school. For example, as indicated during the ‘learner dreams’ (topic 2) and ‘target setting’ (topic 3 and 4) discussions, these (dream and targets) are not conversations that take place in poor and marginalized families who are primarily about ‘survival’, but they do take place in ‘middle-class’ families. In order to ensure that poor learners don’t get ‘left behind’ and be marginalized since education has to be driven by a dream, and measurable targets, we formally introduce this in our schools. These systems, which are part of our ‘operational’ and ‘quality’ systems, will even benefit ‘middle-class’ learners since it is done in a more organized way and structured way throughout the teaching and learning processes in the school.

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