There is no denying that South African intermediate phase learners need additional solutions beyond mainstream schooling. Almost 80% of grade 4 pupils in South Africa are illiterate according to an international study in 2017. It was not a surprise to many South Africans, especially the parents of primary school learners.
Are South African schools failing?
There has been ongoing controversy about the state of primary school education in South Africa, from textbook scandals to overcrowded classes and teacher absenteeism. The preceding year’s statistics were even worse with South African pupils ranking among the lowest five globally for maths and science.
However, this is not entirely a South African problem or one that only afflicts developing nations. The poor academic performance of young learners cannot be entirely blamed upon government departments, public schools and the minority of teachers who are incompetent educators.
There are a host of factors that play a role in a child’s academic ability. It is adversely influenced by circumstances out of the school as much as it is impacted by institutional factors. The poor state of education is due to multiple factors that extend from the school environment to the home environment. Gaming addiction, peer pressure, bullying and the ADHD epidemic are some of the other factors that also need to be examined.
E-Learning May Be Part of the Solution
E-learning simply refers to education through electronic devices. Be it a personal computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone, e-learning is a viable option in the South African context. However, it is not isolated to urban dwellers and private school learners. According to a BBC report, e-learning in South Africa is expected to reach children with little or no access to education.
No single solution will be the proverbial silver bullet to remedy the state of education nor learners’ academic performance. However, e-learning may be helpful where other methods are either too costly, limited in accessibility or cumbersome for teachers, parents and learners.
E-learning should not be limited to the school environment. It should be an ongoing endeavour by learners, both within school and the home. More importantly, it should not be a standalone channel for education but rather be incorporated with conventional teaching methods.
Home E-Learning Solutions
The past decade has seen many e-learning providers pop up in South Africa. From printable textbooks and worksheets to interactive maths and language platforms, South African parents are relatively spoilt for choice. Most are affordable and can give a learner the edge that they need to excel academically.
However, there is also a belief among some parents that tuition is not necessary for children who are attending a school. Schools should offer a complete education solution and the academic performance is the responsibility of teachers. Unfortunately this is not always practical or achievable.
Tuition is not only for learners who are struggling academically or those who want to excel. It is important to understand that children are individuals and similarly there ability to learn may be varied. E-learning offers a child the opportunity to learn at their own pace and this is ideal if it is also available within the home environment.
E-Learning Should Start Early
Generation Alpha is far more in touch with technology than preceding generations. It usually starts from early in life. With toddlers often playing with their parents’ smartphones and even tinkering on their own tablets, this is a generation that is geared for e-learning from an early age.
However, e-learning prior to grade 4 (foundation phase) may require adult assistance as most learners are not able to read proficiently on their own. From grade 4 onwards, there is a shift from the learn-to-read to the read-to-learn principle. Independent e-learning should therefore commence from the intermediate phase of education.
Unfortunately there is a misconception that primary school learners do not require tuition. It should only be reserved for senior secondary learners who are approaching matric and need as much assistance as possible. This is untrue. Learning is an ongoing process throughout life and the ability to learn independently, especially via e-learning platforms, should be cultivated from as early in life as possible.
With universities across the globe rapidly adopting e-learning solutions, a learner’s familiarity and comfort with self-paced learning via electronic devices can make a difference to their academic success later in life.