NOTICE | John Shaw: Our education system needs a lifeline for innovation

Online learning is the tonic our education system desperately needs to tackle educational inequalities in South Africa and help prepare the next generation for future challenges, writes John Shaw.


The dismal unemployment figures accompanied by a global pandemic and a demotivated workforce pose a crucial question: is the current education system innovative enough to give the next generation a fair chance in a growing life? more digitized?

The digital revolution demonstrates that “traditional” education systems (rooted in an old-fashioned understanding of the needs of society) are becoming outdated and obsolete across the world. Traditional schooling is the norm in South Africa, which is why some see digital education as too “unknown” to consider it a viable option today.

In fact, structured online learning is the tonic our education system desperately needs to tackle educational inequalities in South Africa and help prepare the next generation for the unique and unexplored challenges their future will demand of them.

No room for a “one size fits all”

South Africa is in its digital teens, as are the majority of our population. To function effectively and comfortably in this technological age, children must be equipped with new critical and analytical skills that enable them to excel in rapidly changing environments. There is no place for a “one size fits all approach to education in the digital age.”

Structured online education has always been defined as the future of South Africa, even before the pandemic increased interest in it.

U.S. higher education institutions that have embraced the transition to e-learning have been able to tap into an additional source of income essential to their survival. Previously there was only a specific number of students that could be catered for, but now these same institutions are able to accept many more students at reduced fees.

READ | Rethinking education after Covid-19 means a paradigm shift towards online learning

The University of South Africa (UNISA) has long thrived on a similar model allowing large numbers of students to access quality higher education.

Still reeling from the #FeesMustFall era while trying to bypass the financial and logistical challenges of the pandemic, providing a scalable solution to higher education seems like a no-brainer. So why should it be any different for primary education?

Structured online learning provides a ‘real’ school in an online environment. Students receive routine, peer-teacher interactions, and assessments in the same way they would in a traditional school, although they all use online systems. This removes localization barriers, develops “netiquette” as a life skill and removes the costs and logistics associated with purchasing (often obsolete) textbooks. He invokes the “I don’t know but I will find out” state of mind that the students already have today. It is also a great solution for people with learning disabilities who benefit from repeating lessons.

Numeric fraction

What we need is political commitment and encouragement to move this model forward. By enabling students, from anywhere in South Africa, to access structured online learning with qualified teachers, the benefits of this model would be quickly seen, greatly aiding efforts to bridge the current legacy educational gap. of the apartheid era.

With that comes the challenge of bridging the current digital divide before it also becomes too broad to address. Urgent government intervention is needed to reduce data costs, reduce corruption in education public procurement, and deploy affordable digital solutions in impoverished areas of the country.

While it would undoubtedly take many years, students who can afford to access and benefit from structured online education are already making a difference by easing the pressure on the current school system. By moving towards the online schooling model, they allow their “space” in a traditional (physical) school to be occupied by someone else.

Technology has the capacity to tackle educational inequalities both directly and indirectly. The future of our society will depend a lot on our ability to adapt and work with technology. Learning is layered and therefore it is our responsibility as civil society to ensure that South Africa’s future workforce will be effective and well-adjusted citizens functioning comfortably in a global digital economy.

– John Shaw is the CEO of Teneo Online School

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