Education must be pro-active in moral and redemptive teaching. It must teach respect for the dignity, as well as the fallibility of human nature and provide an understanding of the centrality of God.

It must also teach principled stewardship in developing our natural resources.

The ACDP firmly believes that education should be inspired by certain values as pronounced by God, which are applicable for the benefit of the individual and society.

It should also center on the involvement of the family as the core unit in the educational framework.

The ACDP’s policy on education will focus on the building of character and the promotion of sound individual, family and civil values. This will be achieved through Value Based Education (VBE).

The ACDP will undertake to do the following:

  • place an increased emphasis on improving teaching skills, content knowledge and the provision of quality textbooks;
  • ensure the curriculum adequately incorporates study techniques and ethics and leadership training;
  • establish ICT laboratories in schools, and budget for upgrades, maintenance and teachers with the relevant skills;
  • hold Provinces accountable to ‘norms and standards’ for school infrastructure, effective spending, transport and school nutrition; and
  • strongly discourage the disruption of learners’ studies by union activities;
  • Value Based Education (VBE)

This system teaches respect for the basic humanity of all persons. It centers on principled stewardship and equity in developing and utilizing the natural resources have been given as a nation.

VBE aims to nurture the individual in the areas of character, charity, capacity and community.

It is based on a system with the aim of enabling the learner to achieve inquiring and interpretative abilities, critical assessment skills, knowledge and application skills and social values.

VBE does not intend to create a new system of education, but will co-ordinate existing educational models that develop the learner’s capacity in ways that advance the principle within value based education.

VBE will be organized within a management framework to achieve an education for all, steered by an equity-driven education process.

The VBE approach places the responsibility of the learner at the center of all learning and knowledge.

Equity-driven education (EDE)

This process aims at addressing inequalities within the system, which have been inherited from the past.

An EDE program will allow for:

  • the retraining of under-trained teachers;
  • the renewed discipline and commitment from teachers;
  • greater accountability from both teachers and administrators;
  • increased productivity and output from teachers and administrators;
  • greater discipline and commitment from pupils;
  • more funding to be allocated to schools that are severely under-resourced;
  • physical conditions of disadvantaged schools to be addressed;
  • the removal of all negative influences within schools, such as gangsterism, the carrying of weapons, (including guns and knives), the abuse of addictive substances such as drugs alcohol, criminal activity and disruptive behaviour

In addition, the ACDP will focus on the basic skills of numeracy and literacy, which are the building blocks of learning. Outcomes-based education (OBE) is difficult to achieve in well-resourced schools. South Africa has many schools that are under-resourced and therefore South Africa needs a different teaching regime.

Lifelong education also falls within this framework. To redress the effects of substandard education and its impact on individuals, a vigorous adult education program will be implemented.

An ACDP government would ensure that education remains a vibrant field for intellectual development.

Civil society/business and parent/teacher involvement

In many communities, there is a gap between teachers and parents. Parents hand their children over to the school, expecting them to shoulder the full burden of disciplining them and teaching them a work ethic. Teachers, by the same token, often become defensive when parents make inquiries and appear to challenge them. There is generally little effective communication between the school body and parents, and learners often take advantage of this gap and use it to get away with doing as little work as possible.

Research has found that, for the most part, parents would like to help, but do not know how.

The ACDP calls on business and civil society to help in this area by:

  • setting up communication systems in schools. Most parents have smartphones, or at least feature phones, so an SMS-based system would ensure that parents are kept in the loop.
  • setting up meetings between parents and teachers to map out a method of collaboration, defining roles and agreeing on what expectations could reasonably be met; and
  • stocking the library, setting up audio visual systems and equipping computer labs.

Where these projects have been implemented, they have shown amazing results after only a few years. Class averages overall have improved, and in some subjects by two symbols. The pass rate has also improved.

Early childhood development

The ACDP believes that early childhood development must comprise a holistic system that addresses the complete needs of a young individual.

Such a system involves all sectors needed for the creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual development of a child.

The ACDP’s focus on early childhood development is centered on three primary factors necessary for a child’s sustainable and effective development:

a) A sustainable nutritional program

The importance of proper and sustainable nutrition for children at an early learning stage is one of our primary objectives in early childhood development.

b) A multilateral approach

The ACDP believes that early childhood development is primarily linked to the first level of the social strata, which is the family.

We are of the opinion that early childhood development should be tackled on at least three fronts for pre-school development:

  • State assisted funding
  • Business and NGO involvement
  • Home schooling

The ACDP will therefore encourage parental involvement in all education and promote alternative education such as:

  • Home schooling;
  • Private Christian Schooling; and
  • Other cultural schooling.

Parental involvement must also be encouraged and promoted in State schools as this allows for improved student academic achievement, attendance, student behaviour and increased community support for schools, including human, financial and material resources.

Parental involvement can take the form of co-operation, participation and partnership.

c) Constitutional protection

We believe that a child should enjoy constitutional protection.

Children should have access to full constitutional privileges that protect them from any criminal acts of violence and abuse. Currently in practice these rights are often not accessible to the child. This will be changed through institutions as the Children’s Commissioner.

The Constitution must also aim to promote the security, safety and stable development of a child.

The current education system must be reviewed so that children graduate from school with the skills necessary for modern life.

The ACDP will ensure Grade R is available at all schools and early childhood development facilities are available in all areas. We will also improve access to quality ECD teacher training and market ECD teaching as a viable career option.

The ACDP will investigate digital education with a view to providing the best subject educators.

Basic education

The ACDP believes that the inability of our schools to address bullying appropriately must be dealt with. The inability to transition from corporal punishment culture to a human rights-centred approach is something we will address systematically. While the previous system perpetrated institutional violence it placed a check on violence between students, but now children are vulnerable to increased levels of bullying.

The quality of learning and teaching must be improved. The academic schooling system in South Africa has a repeat rate of 9% (nearly double that of most developing countries).

Too many children are dropping out of school before reaching matric. One solution is to introduce a simple, affordable school leaver’s exam like the American GED, because our current Adult matric is too complicated a process and therefore not accessible enough.

The physical and sexual abuse of children by children is aggravated by significant age disparities in a class. Despite the age norms policy, research shows that an age difference of up to eight years can exist in a Grade 1 classroom. Fixing the child safety problem requires reducing the failure rate of children.

The ACDP believes that more single-sex schools must be introduced. For example, a private school in Khayelitsha found that the most pressing need identified by parents in the area was for child safety and parents specifically asked for a private all-girls school. Single-sex government schools and/or low-fee single-sex private schools are needed in townships.

The current BELA bill, which undermines school governing bodies and home schooling, must be amended.

We believe that a thriving low-fee private school and cottage school sector would relieve pressure on overburdened government schools and the education budget. It would boost the economy, improve learner safety and welfare and even relieve traffic congestion by cutting down on commuting.

A home-schooling campaign that educates parents and caregivers, gives them skills and enables them to help their children with schoolwork should be launched. This could be an avenue for unemployed members of the community to make a useful contribution by assisting with classroom activities, thus also restoring dignity and developing skills.

The protection of home schooling rights protects the whole education system.

School Governing Bodies must democratize themselves and show solidarity between the richest schools and the poorest rural schools or this vital forum for democracy will be lost.

While the ACDP would welcome moves towards public private partnerships (PPPs) in schooling, we must be aware of the controversial nature of these arrangements and the very real concerns, especially in terms of oversight of such schools and minimum standards.

Supporters argue that PPP arrangements, even in fee-free schools, would provide flexibility, greater efficiency, increased accountability to government and parents, and deliver improved teaching and learning because of much needed extra resources. However, there seems to be no conclusive evidence of PPPs performing better than their public counterparts in countries where PPPs in schools have been formed. In fact, more money per pupil tends to be paid for administrative and management costs and less money per pupil tends to be paid on teaching and learning, both in ‘for-profit and non-profit’ schools, with teacher salaries being kept low because of a reliance on younger, less experienced staff.

By contrast, the largest part of South Africa’s education budget, divided through equitable share to the country’s nine provinces, goes to salaries.

While so much that determines a child’s school performance is linked to the home and not the classroom, there is still a growing consensus that South Africa’s poorest performing schools are under-funded.

Higher education

The ACDP recognizes the establishment of a co-ordinated higher education system, based on equal access and non-discrimination. This function is to be co-ordinated by the Council of Higher Education who will enjoy decentralized mandates from their respective provinces.

We also recognize that pursuing excellence and promoting the full realization of the potential of every student and employee are great ideals in education.

Although we agree that the state has responsibility to ensure that education is enjoyed by all, to vest that authority predominantly, if not exclusively under the control of the Council of Higher Education goes against the respect for provincial competence.

The ACDP supports extended access to higher education for those who can afford it.

In addition, there is a skills shortage in some disciplines. There needs to be greater cooperation between business and education. Tax incentives for skills development should be provided to businesses that invest in education and training.

In a greatly changing world, education policy must recognize and move with the technological advances and the digital age. A free higher education will have no value if it is not quality education. An education system that does not produce employable people has little to no value.

Thus, a radical reform of the higher education sector is needed. While technology has a vital role to play, the old technology analogy applies: unless you change a flawed process, all you are doing is automating a flawed process.

Associate Degrees

One suggestion is that a two-year Associate Degree be introduced. Access to this should be open to all South Africans through a number of channels, such as existing universities, colleges, private entities, and NGOs. The content should be available for free on the Internet, television and in libraries, so that anyone who wishes to study can do so.

The content should aim to repair the deficiencies of the schooling system and provide preparation for further study.

A degree of specialization should be included but the broad focus would be on thinking skills that include logic or rational, analytical, creative and critical thinking.

A nominal fee for exams could be considered.

Exams should be largely automated and available at any time of the year.

Students who pass these examinations should then be able to enter a program of further study to gain a bachelor’s degree at existing universities to prepare for careers in, for example, law, medicine, engineering, or post-graduate education.

General Bachelor’s Degrees

Another suggestion is a general three-year bachelors’ program aimed at providing entrance into employment, entrepreneurship or work within the public sector such as nursing, teaching, policing, army or the civil service.

Study material should be available for free.

After one year of theory and practical assignments, a progressive system of internships would be employed in years two and three to ensure that graduates are ready and able to work and in a position to begin earning in those years.

On-line systems, which are marketplaces where contractors offer their skills to businesses on a project basis for a small fee, could be used to help candidates both build a portfolio of work and references,and earn while earning a small income.

Private enterprise could absorb business candidates who have proven track records and public sector workers could begin working in the sector directly or for NGOs.

Urban universities are spending far too much money on residences and accommodation for students. This investment should be directed to remote campuses based in suitable small towns. This would use existing accommodation and, as student accommodation is an attractive real estate investment for small investors, it will boost the rural economy. Remote campuses need not be substandard. If leading universities from Australia can have campuses in South Africa, why can leading South African universities not have campuses in small towns?

If suitable sites are selected for remote campuses and given appropriate supporting infrastructure, they could be more attractive to academics than expensive urban centers.

Incentives could be given to the best academics to be located in more remote campuses and to make use of technology to teach students in the cities. Eventually, a flow to the rural areas would be encouraged and growth and development would result in those areas.

United Nations data indicates that South Africa allocates a higher proportion of its budget toward education than the United States of America, United Kingdom and Germany.  Not only does this show a clear commitment to investing in human development in our country but it also makes sense considering that education for the vast majority of people in South Africa has been historically entirely inadequate and deprioritized.

The ACDP must continue to support the prioritization of education in order to ensure greater opportunities for every child in South Africa and to tackle inequality and poverty.

We will continue to oppose community protests being allowed to disrupt schooling and higher education which puts learners and students at a serious disadvantage.  We will call for union activity to be restricted wherever it may potentially undermine education in this country.

Further education and training

The ACDP supports a policy on Further Education and Training.

We believe it will make a significant difference to the lives of those who have not been fortunate enough to complete their education.

Further Education and Training fills a certain niche within our educational system, and should be further developed.

Higher education and tertiary institutions

The ACDP will consider agreeing with educationalists that, before Treasury and Parliament decide the fate of higher education and tertiary institutions, a national summit be called for South Africans to decide their priorities for themselves.  It is important to note that if the public agrees to commit to achieving free quality education it will require some sacrifice in terms of spending.

As Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib says, “if for instance, we have to find R50 billion for freeing higher education, the question…is why are we putting it in higher education. Why are we not putting it in early childhood development, [or] the national health system…society as a whole needs to say, we are prepared [to do this]. We are going to focus on recreating our economy, we need…skills…and hopefully that’s where we [will] put out our money. [They must say] we are prepared to sacrifice and push out those other demands for five years until we reach that.”

It must be the majority choice but the reality is that the drivers of the #FeesMustFall campaign are ‘deeply political’ and it could well be that no solution will be enough to satisfy the various political agendas that will stop at nothing en route to their collective and individual goals.

Spending on post-school education over the next three years for universities and student funding is the fastest-growing part of the national budget. It is, however, encouraging that business professionals have teamed up to build the new Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Program aimed at addressing the flaws in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) model. This is an example of the kind of resources the private sector can invest in public-private initiatives to address the crisis in higher education.

Creative solutions

Recommendations by an independent commission set up by President Jacob Zuma and chaired by Justice Jonathan Heher on funding alternatives have been released, but whatever is decided by this or any future administration is going to be unlikely to satisfy everyone or solve all problems.  This means additional creative solutions are a necessity.

The ACDP will consider championing aspects of proposals recommending the embracing of current digital revolution technologies for wide-scale online learning for primary, high school and tertiary education.

The concept includes classrooms being replaced by larger, cheaper “warehouse” structures erected close to rural and urban settlements for easy access and giving each learner/student a tablet, broadband connectivity and data packages. The ‘schools’ would be staffed by ‘education managers’ trained in managing students’ discipline, motivational techniques and providing logistical help. The lessons would be pre-recorded with translation into any of the eleven official languages possible.

The online model potentially frees the system from the need to produce vast numbers of quality teachers of subjects like maths and science, who would now be the content experts producing the lessons online. The focus would be on producing education managers. Although the initial setup is costly, the running costs are much lower and more efficient.

The University of the Free State (UFS) now offers 100% online Advanced Certificates in Teaching and English. To quote Professor Daniella Coetzee-Manning: “Our inadequate education system is producing students who are completely unequipped to deal with the complexities of quantitative analytics, which together with qualitative communication is said by the World Economic Forum to be the two skill-sets essential for survival in our post Fourth Industrial Revolution world.”

This concept could also free universities to be run primarily as centers of research, with the education they provide cheaply distributed online. It is envisaged that if leading academics spent more time researching, patenting and commercializing ideas on behalf of universities, the same universities could become more self-supporting and more useful to society as a whole.

Perhaps it is time for our education system to take a leap into a brave new educational world of large-scale online education that can provide the quality education and skills needed for today’s youth to not only succeed but excel.

The ACDP will consider becoming a champion of aspects of these concepts.