Let's stick with secondary education, because I've first-hand experience, in the past nine months. We all seem to have the idea that marks aren't what they seem to be be. Here's how it works.
And before I start, the interest that the Story Clinic has in this is neurological. Neurons, like tummies are better off with food that feeds. Not poison. The body doesn't lie. People do, quite badly. Here's the lie that stretches from grade 8 to 11 in secondary education:
In broad strokes, and I generalise, bu this happens in the majority of South African secondary schools, targets are set. Pass rate numbers. Not the average mark. Just to pass. The school principals don't set this. The circuit managers don't set this. It comes from above. Ask Angie.
Okay, so I sat there, an intellectual emeritus professor of narrative studies, taking my cue from a non-fee-paying school in South Africa, after having my soul scraped off the ceiling, after experiencing bizarre behaviour by thugs, the suffering of gentler spirits, the carelessness of learners in general, the attempted carefulness of staff, the desperate desire of the management team to manage, the callous attitude of the three blind mice from the WCED who came to tell the dysfunctional school that it wasn't functioning so well: these were all experiences from which I could learn.
But nothing, to my mind, balances out the targets. The targets are set, but I couldn't work out exactly by whom. Certainly not the school. "It's just the system". Not the circuit manager. "It comes from above". I had a chommie in head office, Pretoria. I sent a message. The answer made my blood run cold. It wasn't a chommie answer. It was a very formal answer, and it told me that I was blowing a whistle in the Arctic.
So here are the broad strokes that work in the majority of South African schools:
less than a third pass on their own merits.
The Department says 80 - 85 percent must pass.
So marks are given out, on a bit by bit basis, bit by more basis, more by more basis, until the targets are met.
Consider that. Consider it well.
Those marks are just given. Sanctioned from above. Ask Angie.
What are the implications?
An arrogant learner body: "Give me my marks".
A stupid learner body: "I've passed, I'm competent."
An unrealistic learner body: "I can make it through tertiary education".
An angry learner body: "Why am I not making it?"
From an economical point of view I'd say that the the kind of school I'm talking about costs the tax payer R18 million a year to produce 200 potential EFF voters a year. The ANC didn't reckon on that.
Not an effective strategy.
The Story Clinic prefers healthy, wholesome stories. But sometimes you have to switch on the lights. It's difficult to extract a tooth in the dark. I should know. Two of mine broke while I was working in the dark. Gentle Dental kindly helped me.
We're not waiting for the bomb. It's exploded, yet too few are listening.
Certainly, we'll feel it. From the top to the bottom of the economy.