The theme of this year’s Nelson Mandela Month is ‘Action Against Poverty’, and as we commemorate and cherish the life and legacy of Madiba, one of the crucial talking points in the fight against poverty in South Africa has to be education.
In a one-on-one interview, JACKIE CARROLL, CEO of South Africa’s leading Adult Education and Training company, Media Works, unpacks some of the key education challenges facing young adults today and why a quality matric is a passport to a brighter future.
- What are some of the most pertinent issues that young people are facing within our education system today?
There are a lot of complex issues at play, but essentially, the key issue is the lack of quality basic education in out country. Education is far more accessible today, but this accessibility has come, for the most part, at the cost of quality. Due to this, most school leavers are not empowered to take on the challenges of the working world, or able to study further. Many young South Africans start adulthood rather disadvantaged.
- So, many South Africans find themselves ill-equipped to progress after school?
Yes, unfortunately, even with their matric certificate in hand, a large portion of South African adults are not equipped. Many institutions of higher education have implemented bridging programmes, because they acknowledge that this is a real problem. You will also find that many big businesses have work-readiness programmes in place for new employees, which points to the fact that the corporate world realises that many young South Africans need assistance.
- Do you think that the low school pass mark of 33% compounds the issue?
In our struggling schooling system, efforts have been made to keep children moving to higher grades…to keep learners in the system at whatever cost. A low pass threshold will keep more pupils moving up the system, but this is not beneficial to the individual. When pupils are pushed to higher grades, without being ready, you often find that they drop out of the schooling system before completing their matric, as they cannot cope. Or, if pupils do pass their matric at a level of 33% they really struggle to progress any further, because they don’t have a sufficient foundation to build from.
- Are certain subjects more of concern than others, especially with regards to work-readiness and higher education?
Maths and science subjects remain a major issue, so occupations that require this knowledge at an in-depth level; your engineering, your medical disciplines, for example, are out of reach for a lot of young South Africans. Not because of a lack of aptitude, but rather because there is a lack of foundational knowledge to build from. Efforts are often made to try and fix the issues by bringing in maths and science programmes in Grade 10, 11, and 12, but this doesn’t resolve core issues. The problem starts with basic education at primary school level. If the fundamentals aren’t in place it is incredibly difficult to really catch-up.
- Since Media Works began in 1996, you have assisted many South African adults improve their literacy through your AET and FLC programmes. Is literacy still a barrier for school leavers today?
Literacy and communication are vital skills and this is still a big issue in South Africa. We first learn to read, then we read to learn, so if their are gaps at a basic level, this can be at the root of challenges throughout the schooling system. English is the predominant medium of communication in businesses in South Africa, and people are found lacking in the workplace if they are not functionally literate. This can be quite unfair, as a person may be competent at their job, with the ability to improve, but they struggle to communicate effectively…poor written communication becomes yet another barrier for adults to succeed at work.
- For young people battling within the South African school system, what can they do to try and improve their situation?
I urge pupils to take ownership of their learning and prioritise it. I meet with so many adults today who say to us that they wish that they had tried harder in school, and not gone with the flow and given up because of the frustrations and challenges. There’s so much information available online that you can draw from, and often, if you search for help, there will be study groups and support networks in your community. I’m not saying that it’s easy, it isn’t, but a good matric pass is an important step towards a better future. With a good matric you’ll be able to study further, get a better job, lift yourself and your family into a different socioeconomic bracket.
- And, for adults who find themselves with a poor matric pass, or without a matric certificate, what can they do to progress?
If you are out of the school system and without a matric, I encourage you to remember that it’s never too late to learn. As an adult, with work commitments and family responsibilities, it can feel extremely daunting to start studying again, but, through the potential of online learning, getting your matric is far more convenient, and affordable, than ever before. You do not need to go ‘back to school’ to get your matric. Through dynamic online programmes, you can have access to quality study material that is available anywhere, anytime and on any device. You can study at your convenience, at a pace that suits you.Media Works launched Matric Works in 2016 in response to the struggling education system in South Africa and the millions of adults who needed to improve or redo their matric. We use top quality learning material, delivered online, to assist adults to prepare for the Department of Education Amended Senior Certificate examination (an equivalent to a matric certificate). Through Matric Works, adults get another chance to achieve their matric certificate, helping them to secure employment and take a step up towards career success.
- Why do you believe that a matric certificate still so powerful?
In this country, our youth face so many challenges, and so many barriers to living the life that they would like to. While the school system and the quality of a matric certificate can be questioned, it’s still a reality that if you don’t have a matric certificate, you are not going to get a job easily. And, in a competitive job market, when unemployment rates are so high, you absolutely need this. It’s your passport to a better and brighter future. Not only for work, but for future learning opportunities too.If you are a pupil in the school system currently and you have the opportunity to get your matric, grab it with both hands and strive to not just pass, but pass well, so that the world of work and further education is that much more accessible. For adults who don’t have their matric, go out and get it – you can.
To learn more about Matric Works visit www.matricworks.co.za