When you Google ‘Jules High’ the first news items relate to a now-famous incident of South African learners who filmed students gang-raping a fellow student on their phones. It’s not a place known for hope, or educational excellence.
On Wednesday, students shuffle in slowly, with the patient, half-bored expression I recognise from my own school-days when I had to go to anything after-school. They are waiting for me to tell them what I was supposed to tell them.
Except, today I will be using some of the teaching practices from the Streetlight model, so I won’t be doing any talking. Within minutes of students being asked to come up with reasons for the state of South African education and ask me one great question on the issue, they are lively, engaged, deep in debate.
“I think it’s teachers”
“If students didn’t have an attitude problem, then they would learn more”
“What we really need are more resources- furniture, books, classrooms”
“If learning was more interesting, it would all go better”
By leading a conversation with guiding, deepening and consequence questions, we spoke for over an hour. Not once did I make a declarative statement or tell them what to thi
By the end, the learners of Jules High had dozens of ideas of what is really causing the crisis in education: from listing studies on the content-knowledge of teachers, to the lack of resources, to the commitment to the profession, and the motivation of students. They also had a host of interesting solutions on how to make learning more engaging and meaningful to their lives. At the end of the discussion, one girl said:
“If we are given more of a voice in school and a chance to express ourselves and ask questions then we would do better and be more motivated”
I couldn’t agree more. By encouraging learners to collaborate, by ask questions and by motivating them to look for answers, we can empower learners infinitely better than conveying a one-dimensional curriculum piece. Young people are capable beyond our imagination, let’s allow them to be.
Melanie Smuts, Founder 1 August, 2014