“Eighty-two per cent of prisoners in the United States are high-school dropouts. A high-school dropout between the ages of 30 and 34 is two-thirds more likely to be in jail, or to have been in jail, or to be dead.” ~ Kamala Harris
Fast facts on schooling in South Africa
- 27% of pupils who have attended school for six years cannot read.
- Only 37% of children starting school go on to pass the matriculation exam
- Only 400 761, about 40% of the 512 700 that registered to write, passed matric in 2018. Note more than 1 002 500 pupils registered for Grade 1 in 2007.
- Only 4% of learners eventually earn a degree.
- Money is not the problem. In South Africa public spending on education is 6.4% of GDP; the average share in EU countries is 4.8%. Few countries spend as much to so little effect.
- In one study in 2007 mathematics teachers of 11- and 12-year-old’s sat tests similar to those taken by their class; questions included simple calculations of fractions and ratios. A scandalous 79% of teachers scored below the level expected of the pupils.
- A typical day of school in South Korea is 9 hours, but most students stay at school or go to a study room to study until 11 pm or even later. The average school day for a student that goes to school in South Africa is 5 hours for grades one and two, 6 hours for grades three to nine, and between about 6 -7 hours for grades ten through eleven.
Without a Grade 12 certificate, the kids that leave school are more likely to head down a path that leads to lower-paying jobs, poorer health, and the possible continuation of a cycle of poverty that creates immense challenges for families, neighbourhoods, and communities.
How to prevent kids from dropping out of school:
1. Parents should be INVOLVED in the child’s education. Parents should help children at home as far as they can and make sure they do their homework.
2. Cultivate Relationships: A concerned teacher or trusted adult can make the difference between a student staying in school and dropping out. Get to know your child’s teacher and be open to advise.
3. Pay attention to warning signs that a child may contemplate dropping out of school, for example being absent from school often. Get help as soon as possible if your child’s grades drop or if they fail grades. Nothing is as demotivating as failing a grade a second time.
4. Teachers should do their best to make learning relevant and interesting: They should be qualified to teach the subject. Boredom and disengagement are two key reasons students stop attending class and wind up dropping out of school.
5. Raise the Academic Bar: Increased rigour doesn’t have to mean increased dropout rates. Higher expectations and a more challenging curriculum, coupled with the support students need to be successful, have proven to be an effective strategy not only for increasing graduation rates but also for preparing students to graduate from high school with options. The Department of Education has lowered the academic bar year on year for the past 20 years to increase the pass rate.
6. Think Small: For too many students, large comprehensive high schools are a place to get lost rather than to thrive. That’s why districts throughout the country are working to personalize learning by creating small schools or reorganizing large schools into small learning communities, as part of their strategy for reducing the dropout rate.
7. Develop a Community Plan: 3 key elements of a community-driven plan:
a. First is knowledge — understanding the scope of the problem as well as current programs, practices, and resources targeted at addressing it.
b. Second is strategy — the development of a “dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery plan” that focuses on community resources.
c. Last is ongoing assessment — regular evaluation and improvement of practices to ensure that community initiatives are having the desired effect.
8. Invest in Preschool: Preschool is an early investment in youth that yields significant economic results later on. By age 28, a group that began preschool at age three or four had higher educational levels and incomes, and lower substance abuse problems, according to a survey done by Chicago’s early childhood education program Child-Parent Centre.
12 Skills to develop if you are still in school:
1. Develop your communication skills by:
Joining drama groups, public speaking, debating clubs, student radio presenter, class rep, student mentor) and practical work experience: working as a receptionist, in telesales or market research, demonstrating products in store. Look for opportunities to speak in front of an audience and, if need be, make your own opportunities: volunteer to talk at a local school about what you learnt in your gap year or host a presentation to raise money for charity on a topic about which you are really passionate.
2. Develop your writing skills by:
Again, using just coursework to demonstrate your skills might not impress. Writing a dissertation looks good but do try and have a range of other examples in your portfolio: as Secretary of a club you will have written minutes and reports: if you volunteer for a charity offer to write some promotional material or a letter seeking sponsorship; write articles for the student or local press, on-line magazines or blogs or, better still, start your own blog. You could write a speech for a friend, instructions for a piece of kit or game, get a letter published in the Times, If you have a part-time job, offer to write a press release for the local paper.
3. Develop your teamwork skills by:
Playing in a team or orchestra, being part of drama production. Try and find other examples too: have you worked in an office or shop supporting a team? Maybe you have taken part in a voluntary project where you had a specific role? Maybe you have worked on a collaborative project such as Greenpower? Being able and willing to collaborate is something all employers will want to see – just make sure you have something to say here! If you haven’t got much experience of team working, get together with friends and brainstorm some ideas: put on a charity event, organise a clear up of litter from the school or college campus, tackle a local environmental issue, set up a student swop shop.
4. Develop your commercial awareness skills:
We talk a lot about this because it is so important nowadays. Not only do you need to read the papers (including the business sections), you should start to pick up (and understand) some of the jargon: mission statements, competitive advantage, customer value proposition, stakeholders, IPO, liquidity, benchmarking – to name just a few. If you have been involved in Young Enterprise you will score well here and being the Treasurer of a club looks good on your CV too. The most important thing you can do is get a part-time job because it gives you first-hand experience and the opportunity to ask questions. Look for opportunities where you can save money or increase sales for your employer and ask them about the major business issues they face. If you work in a local cafe or shop, you will be surprised at how many issues even a small company faces today. And don’t forget your parents and their friends. Talk to them about what they do and what issues their organisation faces – they will provide great input into the bigger commercial picture that you should start framing in your head.
5. Develop your Analysis and Research skills by:
Getting a vacation job in market research and analysing your own website stats. If need be, undertake your own piece of research and analysis or volunteer to get involved locally: maybe your local Council needs some help with their Local Plan, a local charity could use some help better understanding their donor market or perhaps you could work with a local school to assess traffic problems at drop off time?
6. Develop your planning and organising skills:
Organising your revision schedule, especially if you have lots of extra-curricular commitments, is an obvious example. But again, look for examples outside the academic sphere. Have you been stage manager for a play? Have you organised a charity event, a concert, student union activities (although protests don’t always go down well with employers!)? Maybe you have planned and undertaken a gap year trip involving lots of independent travel? Remember what employers are looking for here and, if you haven’t organised a large scale activity, start planning one now! Find a local charity and pool the skills/ talents of your friends: a charity talent show, sponsored activity, fun day for disadvantaged children, concert for the elderly, poetry slam for local teenagers. Use your imagination and go for it!
7. Develop your Time Management skills:
Taking on extra activities whilst studying hard really does show that you can manage your time well (as well as showing that you are not just a swot!). Have you made time outside of your studies to learn something new (whether it is an art, sport, language, technical skill)? Maybe you have combined studying with caring duties or a part-time job? Or perhaps you make time each weekend to follow your passion whether that is a sport, art, theatre or music? What you do in your vacations also matters: just hanging out with mates all the time doesn’t look good – it shows a lack of drive and a desire to coast, neither of which will go down well with employers. If you are stuck for something to do – take a course, volunteer at your local charity shop or get a job. But make sure you do something!
8. Develop your numeracy skills:
The chances are that if you prepare yourself in the other areas, you will be using some maths in a practical context. If you have a part-time job, ask to help with cashing up at the end of the day. If you have organised a charity event, you will have had to work out the costs and the profit made on ticket sales. If you help with some market research you should be familiar with basic stats. If you are already a student, budgeting and managing your loan are important (unless you are always overdrawn which doesn’t look good!). If maths has never been a strong point, try The Economist’s Numbers Guide for a straightforward introduction to what you might be expected to know – it really isn’t that difficult.
9. Develop your IT skills:
Many employers feel that students are overqualified in this area but that they focus their energy and talent too much on social media. You will be expected to be able to produce basic spreadsheets so get in the habit of using them to plan your budget, record and analyse your expenditure, as well as using them for any fundraising activities you take part in. If you don’t already, use a simple database for all your personal and ‘business’ contacts. Make sure you are well versed in at least one presentation package and ideally, you should be able to put together graphic material such as posters, invitations, infographics.
10. Develop your Self Motivation and Drive skills
If you can provide several examples in all of the above areas – or you are prepared to do something to plug the gaps, then you are probably doing OK here. What really impresses employers is when you can show that you really stick at something, even when you are not enjoying it. Have you taken part-time jobs that you didn’t enjoy but still managed to do to the best of your ability?
11. Develop your Adaptable and Open-Minded skills:
Independent travel, doing shift work, stepping into a play/ team/band/job at the last minute are all good examples of being flexible. So are learning something completely new, volunteering in an uncomfortable environment working with people you would not normally spend time with (e.g the elderly) and working abroad. It doesn’t always have to be about the big things but be prepared for questions in an interview that seek out whether you can adapt to change, are willing to work with all sorts of different people and are not going to bring a load of baggage with you when you join the company.
12. Develop your creative thinking skills
Employers want creative problem solvers, people who can see better ways of doing things and are prepared to get up and do something about it. If you volunteer with a charity come up with a new way of fundraising or recruiting more people like you. If you have a part-time job, make suggestions (politely) about how things could be improved – don’t just moan about the way things are done now. If you haven’t been able to find a job, start a small e-Bay business. If there isn’t a local club, society or blog in an area you are passionate about, start one yourself. If there is an issue at school that you and your friends get worked up about, sit down together with the powers that be and find a workable solution.
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