Poor school education undercuts free varsity
As we seek to provide free tertiary education for students of households whose income is lower than R350 000 a year, an important starting point is the question of what education is.
Education is a process that enhances people’s abilities to become economically productive. But this must be quality education.
Quality education leads to the prosperity of a nation.
It will produce individuals that are fit for developmental purposes and results in improved standards of living.
And it is clear that without improving the quality of basic and tertiary education it is impossible for education to fund itself. By funding itself, I mean a situation in which those who receive quality free education take full advantage of it and excel in their chosen professions in such a way that their efforts fuel economic growth and, in turn, result in making it easier to finance free education.
One should identify the gaps in the education system to produce the correct solutions. It is education professionals who are devoted to economic and human prosperity that should design the education policies.
Our current education system does not guarantee prosperity of the individual or the country.
Providing free education is crucial but it will only be successful if state resources are used correctly to yield the desired outcomes. The nation needs to invest in the kind of education that will empower individuals to fully participate in the economic mainstream.
Providing free tertiary education for students of households whose income is lower than R350 000 a year without also investing in quality basic education is a futile exercise. Most “no fee schools” find it difficult to produce school-leavers who are fit for university level education because most of these schools are not well resourced.
Instead of addressing quality, the government is providing free basic education at previously disadvantaged schools with the aim of increasing the number of matriculants. But education is a discipline that cannot be measured by the number of graduates it produces. And because the education these school-leavers receive is not of good quality, they are less likely to meet tertiary requirements.
If the government fails to provide quality free basic education, then how does it expect to provide free quality tertiary education?
The aim of education is to enhance capabilities so that people are agents of their own development. So to prioritise money and university access without quality education will certainly not guarantee success.
Minenhle Mbandlwa has a master’s degree in public policy from Dobisha University, Japan