Media release: Education needs radical transformation. Don’t leave our children in the apartheid era

Media release

6 June 2017

Release immediate

Education needs radical transformation. Don’t leave our children in the apartheid era

Radical economic transformation (RET) in education should be at the top of President Zuma’s agenda. The latest unemployment figures are testimony not only to a failing economy but to a failed education system that is pouring out unemployable young people. The Free Market Foundation (FMF) has consistently called for the abolition of the 200-year-old archaic education system and moving toward a radically transformed future where education is decentralised, relevant, and affordable.

South Africa’s education spending is one of the highest per capita in the world, yet the results are among the worst. Education is badly in need of radical transformation. Demand-led education is the solution.

Thousands of South Africa’s young people are victims of “dumbing down”. The quickest and most effective solution to South Africa’s education crisis is to introduce demand-led education by making education and training attractive to entrepreneurs via a competitive market. Entrepreneurs would teach real skills that the economy needs with real job prospects for graduates.

SA desperately needs more maths and science skills but while we continue to maintain an archaic and colonial based system, this will not happen. Education is not only about knowledge but how to use it. This means that curricular should be designed with an individual in mind and tailored to what he /she will learn and how it will be learnt. One size cannot fit all.

Demand led education is a radical idea but one which would deliver radical results. Instead of forcing pupils to study advanced maths and literacy skills which most cannot master and will not need in their future lives, they should be encouraged to study other subjects and skills at which they can become efficient and excel. Instead most leave school with a “failed sign” because they could not master maths.

A better system is the introduction of specialist schools, which cater for individual ability and desire to learn. Young people need to be convinced by demonstration that proficiency in maths and science will allow them to achieve above-average earnings. Specialist maths and science institutions will be much more likely to achieve that objective through advertising the successes of their students.

South Africa needs the most effective, low-cost and efficient policy for transforming the education to ensure that the majority become numerate, literate, confident, capable young adults who would contribute to inclusive economic growth.

If South Africa rejects the standardised curriculum model and opts instead for a competitive market in curricula content, it is logical that schools and universities will buy into and tailor those programmes which work best for their “customers” and which produce the best results. When something does not work, change can be quick and effective.

To use a sports analogy, if maths and science were tennis, in the current system, coaches spend years teaching everyone to play tennis almost exclusively when the demand is for a variety of sports skills beyond the school gates. Every school leaver needs to be numerate or literate but unless an individual is planning a career requiring advanced maths or literary skills then much of their school studies have been irrelevant.

Under demand-led education government would purchase top quality schooling for the poor from competing private providers with taxpayers’ money rather than having it squandered on non-functional government schools. An open education market would attract private investment. Competitive entrepreneurs would offer a greater choice of better quality, more cost-effective, individually tailored, truly innovative learning options to students. As in any competitive market, education facilities, which do not deliver will be forced to improve or close down. Parent power will decide.

The benefits of demand-led education are far-reaching. South Africa could become the global benchmark in education that closely tracks the real requirements of employers and the economy delivering growth and lower unemployment. There is no time to lose.



Note to the Editor

This media release is 7 in a series of 10 in which the Free Market Foundation (FMF) will provide alternatives to the various policy discussion planks of the African National Congress’ 2017 National Policy Conference.

Previous media releases in this series

1. ANC Conference must adopt real radical economic transformation – not more of the same paternal statism

2. ANC Conference must reject ICT White Paper and Hate Speech Bill for South Africa to drop Apartheidesque communications policy

3. Radical economic transformation means South Africans keep and control their own money

4a. For radical economic transformation in energy, adopt the 1998 White Paper

4b. Yes – introduce radical economic transformation in labour policy and help 9 million unemployed

5. “Amandla! Awethu!” means power to the people, not government – it’s time to decentralise!

6. 23 years post-apartheid, South Africa needs to be radical about land reform


You can access more in-depth documentation regarding the above on the FMF’s website:

Submission to High Level Panel on Education Policy

Unchain the child: Abolish compulsory schooling laws


The FMF will be hosting a media briefing on 21 June 2017, which will provide an overview of the FMF’s alternatives as well as our vision for Radical Economic Transformation.


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