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Should Private Schools Be Nationalized?

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2018-03-29
This isn’t the first time that the entire destruction of our education system has been suggested. Should private schools be nationalised?
Year after year, the South African education system is unfailingly ranked among the worst in the world. When looking for quality education for their children, parents naturally tend to gravitate toward private schools. These schools are often touted as the best-performing in the country. More often than not, they're also among the most expensive. You get what you pay for, or at least so we hope. What about parents who simply can’t afford to send their children to quality schools, though? What chance does that child have in South Africa? This is the question posed by a group of people calling for the nationalisation of private schools. The original news report, from Times Live, cited no sources. While we found the report a little bit hollow, like most hollow things it has resonated. It has lit a fire under social media. While almost nobody of sound mind will take #NationalisePrivateSchools seriously, it still poses an interesting problem. We took a look at this idea – at the pros and cons and what’s behind it. Could it be the cure to South Africa’s delinquent education system? Or is it just another case of destroying everything that still works and replacing it with mediocrity? Private health care, anyone?
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Nationalise Private Schools

It’s the expropriation of excellence without compensation. A "small group of people" calling itself the #NationalisePrivateSchools National Task Team, which CompareGuru has been unable to reach for comment, issued a punctuation-starved statement over the weekend. In it, the group said that a dual education system – the co-existence of both private schools and public schools – “gives children of the rich minority an unfair advantage to achieve better results and stand a chance of getting better jobs and starting successful businesses than the millions of young people from poor backgrounds who are subjected to public schools”. We’d like to draw attention to the word subjected there. Hold that in your minds as we continue. The group went on to state that “in a country that claims to ensure equality amongst all its citizens, selling better education to those who can afford to pay and giving poor quality education to those who can't pay should be foreign.” #NationalisePrivateSchools said that the Department of Basic Education had not been able to offer a standard of education in public schools that is on par with the level of private schools.
“Therefore, as young people, we can no longer be subjected to an education system that says to us 'forget all your skills and talents and focus on learning so you can work for someone else'. We believe a uniform education system will force the government to comply with the Norms and Standards of Schools as stated in the South African Schools Act.”
The statement went on to say that the recent incidents of racism in private schools are an indication that they have not transformed. It still appears as if those born in rich families believe themselves to be superior to those of disadvantaged backgrounds.

Crab Mentality / Tall Poppy Syndrome

As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is glaringly obvious, from the statement, that the #NationalizePrivateSchools group regards public schooling as inferior. Rightly so. Government-run public schooling is substandard in every conceivable way. No student should be subjected to the terrors of an education. Even the teachers are running away.
“The government should directly have control over what is being taught to its young people and the privatisation of education makes it hard to do so.”
The campaign has one glaring flaw, though. If the government has failed to provide quality education or failed to adequately manage its schools, why would we want to nationalize private schools and bring them down to the same level? Why are we continuously lowering the standard of education? Instead, we should be focusing on making public schools better. There’s no good reason to nationalize private schools and entirely obliterate South Africa’s educational system. It could be that the anonymous group is simply suffering from Crab Mentality or Tall Poppy Syndrome. Tall Poppy Syndrome is when people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down and / or criticised simply because they have been classified as superior to their peers. This is similar to begrudgery, the resentment or envy of the success of a peer. Crab Mentality is a flawed way of thinking best described by the phrase:
"If I can't have it, neither can you."
The metaphor refers to a bucket of live crabs, some of which could easily escape, but other crabs pull them back down to prevent any from getting out and ensure the group's collective demise. South Africa’s grim history needs to be accounted for. But, to suggest the destruction of the entire system is simply not the answer.

CompareGuru Chats With Spark Schools

Spark Schools is a network of private primary schools that provides affordable, high quality education. Last year, Business Tech reported that the cost of an average government school tuition in SA comes in at around R19 500 per year. This doesn't include any extras, such as after-school sporting or curricular activities, and of course, this was in 2017. The price has gone up since then. With Spark, the cost per year is pretty much on par, all inclusive. The difference is, your children receive private education. Spark's model may very well be a viable solution to the problems in South Africa. So, we reached out to their CEO and C0-Founder, Stacey Brewer, to find out a little more.

What makes SPARK a success where public schooling has failed?

The current education system in South Africa is failing for various reasons. These include low expectations for our children, the inability to teach children basic skills and the lack of accountability from those in charge. The current education system does not prepare our children for a fast changing and competitive world. At SPARK we customise learning for each child based on their personal needs. In addition, we have approximately 245 hours of professional development annually for our school staff to ensure that they are suitably trained to meet the needs of all our children. At SPARK our total cost to educate a child is on a par with what the Government spends. But we also provide a model that is affordable to the country while at the same time ensuring that our children get a top-class education and are internationally competitive.

How is SPARK able to offer such affordable education, compared to other private schools?

We are able to deliver high quality affordable schooling through our innovative education model which is called 'blended learning'. Blended learning is technology that is integrated into the school model that drives cost efficiencies in the system to allow us to be affordable. It also creates a data rich environment in order for us to differentiate our instruction.

Would the Nationalisation of Private Schools fix the education problem in South Africa?

No, I don't think it will. South Africa has prioritised education in terms of our national budget spend, but this has not translated into the results that we would aim to see in education in this country. Our children have a problem with obtaining a quality education, not accessing it, and we need to raise the bar in order to be in line with other countries. Last year it was noted from the PIRLS assessments that 80% of our Grade 4's cannot read with meaning and understanding. We have a system problem in South Africa, which means the current way that education is being delivered is not meeting the basic needs that our children require, never mind that they are unable to master a subject. Nationalisation will not address this.

In your opinion, what is the solution and what can be done to raise the level of education?

The state of education in this country is so dire that we need as many different stakeholders getting involved as possible in trying to turn the education crisis around. It is our responsibility as South Africans to create that change. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach. SPARK’s results to date speak for themselves and show that it is possible. There is an affordable education model out there which focuses on both the children and the teachers. Start your car insurance quote.

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