The current pass rates and throughput of the South African education system need to be addressed. Therefore, the objective of the 1st Annual National FET Conference 2013 is to be instrumental in decreasing the failure and dropout rates and consequently improve the pass and throughput rates in line with the vision of the National Development Plan.
The theme of the conference, ‘Motivating Towards Success’ has a holistic focus addressing upliftment, skills building, poverty alleviation and economic emancipation upon which I want to add ‘Learning Emancipation’.
‘Learning Emancipation’ is a prerequisite and heads upliftment, skills building, poverty alleviation and economic emancipation.
The foundation needed for ‘Learning Emancipation’ is great teachers knowing how to benchmark learners’ entry level competence and how to, on an ongoing basis, determine reasons for slow progress and knowing how to assist and support learners to progress at an accelerated pace.
The current most widely used teaching approach is teacher-centred. With this approach lecturers use the talk-and-chalk or waffle-and-whiteboard method. Teacher-centeredness does not easily support ‘Learning Emancipation’ because it defines classroom learning as learners passively sitting at desks attending and grasping what is explained. It defines learning for tests and exams as memorising content from textbooks and other sources, making sketches, diagrams and summaries to assist in remembering the content in case it is being asked in a test or exam.
This approach defines a dedicated lecturer as one who explains the content in detail; ensure learners grasp the subject matter as they explain it; calls upon learners to pay attention to specific critical aspects which may be asked in the forthcoming exam.
Overemphasising teaching instead of focusing on learning, leads to a number of misconceptions. Firstly, learners who can (passively) memorise a lot of information are gifted and that conscious learners are those who attend classes and submit work in time. Further, learners are solely responsible for their own study momentum and success or for that matter non-success. This implies that if they are not progressing, they are either not hard-working or not gifted. Lastly, skills can be transferred from the lecturer or trainer to a learner as if there is a conduit between the one who knows and the one who must learn.
Emancipated learners can only be developed by lecturers and trainers who are emancipated from the talk-and-chalk method. Such teachers are great teachers knowing how to put learners in the learning driving seat instead of them being in the teaching driving seat. Teachers who expect learners to demonstrate their thinking skills during lessons, allow learners to make mistakes and to learn from them.
The education system needs teachers capable of using learner-centred facilitation methods to engage learners in meaningful learning interactions. The system also needs teachers who are able to mobilise learners to become active and participative learners inside and outside classrooms, emancipated learners who can meaningfully argue issues, explore resources and select and grasp information, see connections and relationships, discover and create knowledge, work out answers, solve problems and gain insight.
Our education system does not need Tayloristic teaching factories consisting of teachers repeating lessons over and over. Our education system needs learning powerhouses that serve as learning dynamos that knows their core business in learning and therefore invest most of its time and money in developing their key assets, their teachers.
- Cas Olivier will be a presenter at the 1st Annual FET Conference 2013, taking place from 25-27 September 2013 in Johannesburg, Parktown, Johannesburg.