by Gregory Simpson

Editor's Note

Education for the nation

Greg Simpson.jpg

Technology continues to play an increasingly prominent role in how children are educated, with bright-eyed primary school learners who are being exposed to computer science from an early age, entering into Education 4.0.

There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to early childhood development and technology. Many affluent schools have dived head-first into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and have made tablets a standard tool to assist learning, at the parents’ expense, of course.

Being exposed to technology from a young age makes one more familiar with technology and its workings but, arguably, it robs children of some their imagination—a crucial part of creative childhood development—due to an over-reliance on technology.

The late Apple founder, Steve Jobs, reportedly once said that if he had an iPhone when he was growing up, he might not have been able to have the imagination to come up with such an innovative invention.

Meanwhile, more ‘progressive’ schools that use the Waldorf education system are growing in popularity locally. They have a slightly different, refreshing attitude to the question of technology and education.

Smartphones, tablets and iPads are banned from the school until Matric, with high school learners only having access to computers during designated class times. This thinking may sound backward, but a school like Constantia Waldorf scores some of the best Matric results in the Western Cape and has been the top-performing co-ed school in previous years, so there must be some merit to their approach.

The hot topics of home-schooling and the revolutionary non-school have been debated this year, with the Department of Education wanting to impose stricter regulations for home-schooling and the rise of cottage schools, which have, at times, been a response to the escalating price of education.

For many parents with more than two children, it has become difficult to make ends meet. The schools themselves are often in a tight situation too, with fewer subsidies coming from the government, together with the rising inflation.

The sad reality is not rosy for many young South Africans in the townships and rural areas as well—they often don't have access to quality education and infrastructure for vital practical learning in the sciences, for example.

It was refreshing to chat to Professor Shaheed Hartley, the Director of UWC’s Science Learning Centre, who has helped to roll out countless customised science classrooms with laboratories so that learners can have a vital hands-on experience.

Quality education is the cornerstone of the next generation’s development and we need to ensure that it becomes a top priority for all stakeholders to promote it to the best of their ability while keeping an open mind to the different forms of and innovations in education.

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