South Africans have become so used to “swimming in (a) cesspool of diminished expectations” that low standards have become the new normal in the country, according to exiting UFS vice chancellor, Jonathan Jansen.
In a column published by The Times, Jansen reacted to news from the South African department of education that it might enable struggling students to complete their matric certificate over a two-year period.
The academic, who recently announced he would step down as vice chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State at the end of August, said the move would be “pandering to our lowest aspirations”, and that would be to the detriment of the poor.
“So now you can do your matric over two years. Why stop there? Let’s allow pupils to write the Grade 12 final examination, over six years — one subject per year,” Jansen said.
“If the goal is to sink so low that it is impossible for anyone to fail, hey, make the exam as easy as possible. One subject in Grade 8, one in Grade 9 — you get the picture — and one after Grade 12. That way, everyone passes, we hope.”
Jansen said that the tests and examinations were in place to guarantee that school leavers were literate and numerate, and in possession of the necessary skills required for further education and training.
“You cannot fix (poor matric performance) by putting all effort into the last sprint…fix the foundations of learning in the first three to five grades and you will not have to come up with these desperate schemes in the final grades of high school,” he said.
According to Jansen, the proposal and defence of this policy speaks to the very nature of South Africans – particularly those in power.
“This is what we’re good at as South Africans – we scrape the bottom of the barrel and then have the audacity to claim victory,” he said.
“What country with any self-respect celebrates its economy narrowly averting junk status? A more appropriate response would have been to lament the fact that we even got into that perilous situation. But we pride ourselves on our ignorance.”