A Learning Crisis with a Unique Solution

Winning Teams has implemented numerous interventions in hundreds of public secondary schools countrywide as well as adult learning centres and has recognised a serious lack of a learning culture. It has noted that where learning should happen there is a gaping chasm that needs urgent attention. The cycle of teaching, learning and assessment cannot be completed without ensuring that learning is taking place.

We have identified 3 key areas which clearly highlight the current learning crisis in South Africa. These are:

  1. Lack of Learning Competencies          
  2. Lack of English Language Competencies
  3. Lack of Core Knowledge, Key Concepts and Skills

Lack of Learning Competencies

Learning is a partnership between educators, learners and parents. However, there is limited engagement between educators and learners in their learning process. Although parents wish to support their children with their learning they are unable to do so or lack understanding of what kind of support learners need. The focus of teaching is primarily on delivering subject content within prescribed times and in accordance with teaching plans referred to as work schedules. 

In most educational institutions teach a number of classes, and because of time limitations, they do what they can to teach the curriculum, without checking that learners learn, understand, apply and practice what they have been taught. Even the little homework required of learners is seldom marked or used to give learners feedback on their progress. This leaves learners on their own. They are expected to take responsibility for their own learning without knowing how to learn, without immediate feedback on their progress, without the support of teachers and parents.

Lack of English Language Competencies

The home language of the majority of learners in educational institutions is not English. Their exposure to English is largely restricted to listening to the educator (majority of whose home language is not English) in the classroom. Learners are not provided with sufficient opportunities to practise English language skills in activities that require constant listening, speaking and writing. As a result, there is a serious lack of English competency that prevents learners from obtaining success in their examinations. It also limits their ability to comprehend the content of other subjects e.g. Mathematics and Sciences. 

Lack of Core Knowledge, Key Concepts and Skills 

Mathematics, Science and English (FAL) are progressive learning subjects that require the building of foundational knowledge key concepts and skills. Learners need to fully understand, comprehend and retain the basics from the lower through to the higher grades. In order to be competent in these subjects, regular practice is required by learners in order to answer questions and build the ‘foundations’ to progress further. 

It has been proven that learning retention is best obtained through engagement and interaction between teacher and learners and amongst learners themselves (see the Learning Pyramid below)

Unfortunately in our education system learners are passive participants in the learning process which may well account for the low levels of numeracy and literacy in our country. Many learners do not grasp the basics and struggle to cope with what is being taught which has a compound effect on their learning and they quickly lose interest in the subject. To add to this learners who fail mathematics are pushed through without having to pass.

To quote Jonathan Jansen

“then the wonderful gift of automatic promotion in Grades 10-12 so that if you failed Grade 10 you cannot fail again and you are ensured safe passage to Grade 12. In some schools there are now more ‘progressed learners’ writing this year’s National Senior Certificate in Grade 12 than learners who get to the last year of schooling by passing. How about that?” 

From The Times newspaper, July 2015.

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