Jul 29, 2011

The South African skills crisis close up

I'm really looking forward to abandoning the camera on my phone.
This crappy picture is of a bunch of textbooks my host sister is currently reading.  They're for a correspondence course in several subjects having to do with school administration and the like, obtained from North West University, and I helped her download several supporting documents.  Paging through the books, the courses seem at least somewhat legitimate—not obviously a diploma mill-style efforts, at least.  There are repeated instructions to help people avoid common South African mistakes, like copying the textbook verbatim.  My sister applied for course because if she passes, she will get a R1000 salary increase.

She has no chance of passing.  The courses assume a passing familiarity with the academic gearshifts—computer and internet skills, ability to parse legal and academic language, and most importantly good writing skills.  My sister did not know the meaning of the word "legislation."  How much did the course cost?  R21,000 (about $3000).  Of course, there are no refunds.  Obviously the government is trying to incentivize skills acquisition, but if the school system can't turn out graduates with decent English skills, the program will be stillborn.

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