What should I do?

The Three R's
Blog 018 - 25 June 2012

The Three R's

The Three R's

Earlier I wrote that until South Africa mastered the three P's it should not bother with the three R's, as it would simply be a waste of time. The three R's should be mastered by all the citizens of South Africa. I now have to admit that if I had read the South African Constitution, II would have known what the constitution has to say about the three P's and the three R's. I would like to know exactly what the South African Constitution guarantees its citizens in this regard.

I have always been quite good at one of the R's namely, aRithmetic. I have also not been a bad reader, well not until recently,when I retired. I worked as a teacher / lecturer and reading was essentialto my work. I still read, most of The Witness and The Times on a daily basis. I also do a fair amount of reading whilst sitting in front of my computer.

Writing about reading reminds me of the end of my lecturing career. During these closing years I became very aware of how little the students I taught, read. Occasionally, I would pop across to the library to collect a couple of books that they might consider reading. After I had shown the books to te class, I would return them to the library. Sadly, once there, they would once again adopt a "laid-back attitude", propping up the shelves.

The languishing Library situation even prompted me to write that the library would be better utilized if it was converted into a gym. It has multiple floors with windows overlooking the "Library Lawns". Walkers, joggers and cyclist could then peer through the windows to admire the pool that had been installed on the Library Lawns. Oh and we all know that a healthy body promotes a healthy mind. Maybe this improvement would be significant enough to actually stimulate the brain to the point that it results in the body not only reaching for a book, but then reading it.

But I digress, as I am known to do. Possibly, this is because I now have to admit that I was never very good at wRiting. When I was a school boarder, my mother would diligently correct the spelling mistakes I made in the letters I wrote home, and then return them to me. Over the years I did learn to spell some difficult words like calculus and parallel, but only because my continuous mis-spelling of these words resulted in embarrassment, sometimes acute embarrassment. Computers and word processors have helped of late, and there (There, I got it wright!) may have been some improvement.

Now after my rather lengthy and digressionary (own word) introduction, let me get to the points I would like to make.

  1. The teaching, not osmotic learning, of the Three R's must begin at home, and it should continue there way beyond the child having gone to school.

  2. This teaching must be accompanied by active supervision and participation in the formal processes that will be initiated and continued, once the child is at school.

  3. Mathematics is based on axioms. The sums and products of the decimal digits are a bit like that. Every child needs to know that 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, ... and 2 x 2 = 4, 2 x 3 = 6, ... This is so important that I need to repeat it, every child needs to know this, in fact know it off by heart. (http://www.wikihow.com/Teach-the-Multiplication-Tables-to-Your-Child) One could argue that the day the twelve times tables disappeared of the back of 48 Page School Exercise Books, was the beginning of the end of arithmetic competence amongst learners at primary school. This type of number work is known as Arithmetic, it is a branch or type of of mathematics. It is not mathematics. See: Teach the Multiplication Tables to Your Child. If only the Three P's were this simple!

  4. The training of the teachers who will teach the Three R's, should be conducted by institutions dedicated to this level of teaching, much the same as was done by teacher training colleges in the past. Why these were ever disbanded remains a mystery. Via a grapevine I heard that some were bad, so they closed all of them. Maybe it was a case of getting rid of an apartheid legacy. Whatever the reason, there is talk of this type of college being re-opened. They need tp act soon if they hope to recall some of the staff that also should never have left the system.

  5. Primary school teachers should not in general attend a university in order to qualify. Universities can of course conduct research related to primary schools and the teaching that takes place there. If fact it is what we should expect.

  6. High school teachers should commence their post school education at university within one or two disciplines that are relevant to the high school curriculum, and lead to an appropriate first degree. After that they should complete at least one year of training in the areas that will prepare and assist them with the commencement of their careers as high school teachers. The benefits of this are huge. Teachers trained in this manner have acquired their own subject knowledge and hopefully inspiration at the coal face. Should such a teacher opt for a career change, s/he is in a better position to do so. Many do and while it is a loss for the education sector, it is not also necessarily a loss for the national economy. This ex-teacher has a discipline based degree which can now be used to further his or her degree in some other field.

  7. When I matriculated in 1965, I got one A symbol for Physical Science and I was rather pleased with myself. I doubt that any getting that would be as pleased as I was back then. Then I could also buy a loaf of bread for ten cents. I cannot begin to imagine what my father must have paid for bread when he left school. It is like 2 + 2 is not 4. So I do not begrudge someone who gets four a symbols for his / her final school examinations. I will not express an opinion on why these changes have occurred, or in fact that they should be allowed to occur.

These are my thoughts and opinions on the subject of teacher training and I believe them to be sound. While I am always prepared to defend them, I am also not averse to be shown to be misguided or plain wrong. In fact I would welcome it.

Ten years ago I was lecturing at UKZN. At that time the numbers of non-white students in my classes started to grow markedly. I used to say to all these students that I welcomed the change that had come about. Now all South Africans could compete on an equal footing, and what is more, help to grow the economy. I would then add that such a development was always going to serve me well, as I would be retiring in 10 years time, just about the time when these positive developments would start to deliver dividends. Sadly, none us quite appreciated the extent to which we would be affected by AIDS. I also never dreamed that education, something I had been involved in for my whole working life, would let young South Africans down so badly.

[email protected]
E-mail address Robert Dempster home page icon www.robdempster.com