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Service Issue 79

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Service magazine addresses key issues related to government leadership and service delivery in South Africa.

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S education children who have been affected the most have been those from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds. As is so often the case in education and, as I’ve pointed out in my study Education and Elitism, a cruel and unfair reality is that household wealth predicts academic success or lack thereof. When deficits occur, it is the poorest who pay the heaviest price. This means that they have fallen – and may continue to fall – even further behind. Alongside this, a small elite in well-equipped schools with access to powerful technologies and high-performing, innovative pedagogies are propelled further even more, racing into the position of future leaders. FUTURE PROSPECTS However, while Covid has created educational deficits, it has unearthed several salient questions about learning, and many of these might well be keys to the future of learning organisations and how to keep children learning. Accelerated use of technology for learning has morphed the educational landscape considerably, making blended and hybrid learning approaches mainstream. One simple way that this can improve learning is by increasing access, since students are able to attend lessons remotely. An example, at university level, is an online university that is opening access to higher education to tens of thousands of students from across the world. As such, the cost of Covid is heavy, but there are also opportunities to advance learning in new and innovative ways that will increase access and reduce inequity. The collapse of examination systems has brought increased attention to alternative assessments, celebrating student achievement in a more holistic manner than high stakes testing. An example of an alternative testing system that can address educational deficits is the Learner Passport, a system we are developing at the International School of Geneva with a strong team of counsellors and instructors. The passport is designed to recognise many forms of student achievement, such as sports, arts or work affecting the community positively. The cost of closing schools is major, for the individual, for the group and for society at large. The cost of Covid will best be measured in the way humans pick themselves up from the pandemic COVID LEARNING LOSSES What South Africa’s education system must focus on to recover By Vijay Reddy, distinguished research specialist, Human Sciences Research Council Education scholars estimate that there was a loss of 60% of school contact time in 2020 and 50% in 2021. There were higher losses in the lessresourced schools. It’s uncertain exactly how much learning (knowledge and skills) has been lost and how wide the gaps may be for disadvantaged children. The global literature reports that: • Learners from poorer countries and households experienced higher learning losses • Earlier grades were more susceptible to learning losses than secondary learners • Learning losses were higher for mathematics than for reading • Girls were more affected Learning losses in South Africa For South Africa, the loss of school learning time in 2020 moved the education system backwards to the achievement levels as they were in 2015 – a regression by five years. The learning loss for learners from less-resourced schools was 4.2%, higher than learners in more affluent schools at 3.4%. Studies measuring reading proficiencies in under-resourced primary schools in 2020 reported that grade 2 (8-year-olds) and grade 4 learners lost between 60% to 80% of a year of learning when compared to their pre-pandemic peers. South African researchers compared pre-Covid grade 3 reading scores to grade 4 reading scores during the pandemic. They found that grade 4 home language learners were more than 1.25 years behind and English first additional language learners were half a year behind. They also found that learners were writing much less. Article courtesy of The Conversation Close the gap Drawing on past experiences, South Africa should implement these components for learning recovery: • Consolidation and trimming the curriculum content • Increasing the efficiency of instruction • Supporting out-of-school education programmes • Nurturing the well-being of all involved in education South Africa reduced the content of the curriculum for 2020. This reduced curriculum should form the basis of a new curriculum, especially for primary schools which should focus on building foundational knowledge and skills. To enhance learning, younger children must be in stimulating environments which focus on first language development and reading with meaning, basic computational skills and writing simple sentences. Learners must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing and computation before progressing to the next grades. Educators and learners must be at school every day. Pre-Covid, South Africa experienced high levels of absenteeism and late coming. School time must be used effectively with high quality engagements. National, provincial and district officials must monitor and mitigate absenteeism of educators and learners. Learning recovery requires both in-school and out-of-school programmes. Small group out-of-school tutoring programmes should be expanded, especially for high school learners. Primary school learners must be supported by parents with reading activities and cognitively stimulating educational television and radio programmes. The Conversation

education S THE COVID COHORT: A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE By Riyaadh Ebrahim, Tshikululu Social Investments How do we best unearth these new assets emanating out of the basic education system? to build a new tomorrow, perhaps no longer looking at education in terms of material investment, financial prospects and economic growth (or loss), but the development of more ecological, humane and creative approaches to the challenges facing the planet. S Conrad Hughes is the campus and secondary principal at the International School of Geneva’s La Grande Boissière and research associate at the Université de Genève. We have a cohort of school leavers that have lived through a global pandemic – a cohort that has experienced firsthand how life can drastically change in an instant. This is an asset. When this cohort enters the workplace, they will know how to adapt to rapidly changing environments probably faster and more effectively than any preceding generation. Imagine what this means for the future of the workplace. When this group enters the job market, they should be able to easily adapt to their environments and integrate into geographically spread organisations. They may even demand greater flexibility. Could a potential labour restructure be imminent through this youth that enter the economy? And in the context of South Africa, will this agility translate to an optimistic increase in the numbers of people accessing the formal economy? We have a cohort that has observed how society “thinks”. Never has an entire cohort seen so directly how society can galvanise around certain narratives, how it is informed by various forms of media or how it creates heroes and villains in real-time and how this influences power structures. Imagine the marketing professionals that may emerge out of this group, or the sociologists or the anthropologists and historians; a group that is able to use personal experience to better understand the past and the future. We have a cohort of youth that has firsthand experience of public health theories. They are public health novices that understand basic concepts in virology and immunology, inequities in health and the impacts of health on society. Imagine the potential level of public health Imagine the public health revolution that we could be on the precipice of right now. Similarly, there are great educators, economists and artists waiting to emerge that have been shaped directly by a global shift in every sphere of life. New “assets” have been produced in these matriculants that are much larger than the matric results. The challenge is for us to develop ways of mining these precious resources for the development of society. For social investors in basic education, we need to support systems that do not resort to old ways. We must consistently evaluate the progress made and find ways of furthering all that is being achieved. For investors in livelihoods, higher education and training the need is more complex. How do we best unearth these new assets emanating out of the basic education system? Do we continue investing in programmes that promise the same-old-same-old or do we find programmes that develop critical thinking? Do we lead this imminent labour market change? Do we develop local economies that offer more flexible working conditions? Do we leverage more off the digital revolution to promote a greater ecosystem of gig workers? There are no easy recommendations that can be made but the questions should be posed, and the possibilities explored. These past two years have developed achievements not reflected in the matric results and while these numbers are important, we must engage with the broader transformation that this pandemic has brought about. Service magazine | 15

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