Over 60 million children of primary-school age, mostly in Africa and Asia, are not in school. More then 250 million are in school but are not experiencing meaningful learning.
In South Africa, school is compulsory for children aged seven to 15, where they are expected to learn core skills – reading, writing and arithmetic – and improve their chances of future employment. But for some, schools are places of persistent failure, of humiliation, of boredom and lack of progress.
Finding Place and Keeping Pace: Exploring meaningful and equitable learning in South African schools is about getting access to and completing a full cycle of good-quality basic education. The contributors span a range of methodologies that include policy analysis, classroom observation and learner assessment, bringing together a rich set of studies that explore a pattern of exclusion from meaningful learning by South African schoolchildren. In particular, they look at schoolchildren who attend school regularly, but are not learning due to inadequate facilities, indifferent teachers and socio-economic factors. They are at risk of either dropping out or leaving school with limited resources.
Within the country, access to schooling remains uneven across and within provinces, and between different communities, with poverty, race and location being major factors. Physical access is just the first hurdle – once through the school gates it is expected that children will be provided with knowledge and values that will allow them to function in the economic and social life of the country. However, this is not the general case – children may be at school but without accessing education.
The authors identify several patterns of exclusion, including different forms of marginalisation, age-inappropriate enrolments, and the fact that school choice, voice and quality remain restricted. They also make policy recommendations, which include improving the quality of teachers and teaching, enhancing parental and community involvement, and clarifying the Language-in-Education policy.
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