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The lecture theatre: Where stupidity can now be found.

The lecture theatre: Where stupidity can now be found.

I’m a first year student. What sets me apart from all the other first years amongst me, is that I am not a first first year. That’s right, back in 2006, when most of my classmates were discovering heels, lipgloss, and discovering first hand the differences between boys and girls, I was sitting in lectures at my beloved University of Stellenbosch. I was a BDram student, and our first year group was by no means a group of geniuses. We were just your regular students. Sure, we had to be accepted for our course, unlike those common BA types, but let’s face it, it was more based on an essay than your academic performance. Let’s not kid ourselves, Drama is hard work, but it required less sheer smarts and more creativity. Different strengths for different people and all that.

We went to our classes, we took notes, we wrote our tests. We went to the library, we got indimidated by the big words lecturers use, and sometimes asked questions. All in all I’d say that the majority of us adapted to the change of University rather well. A few kids discovered the joys of alcohol and casual sex, but in the true sense of the buffalo theory, the weak among us fell away, and the group as a whole got stronger. We were by no means phenomenal, but hey, we weren’t stupid.

This year, a mere three years later, I sit in class, again a first year. I do realise I am slightly older than my peers, with a bit of University experience behind me. I already know where all the bars are, where to get alcohol on a Sunday, and that no-one ever leaves Springbok at 3 in the morning with any of their dignity intact. But still. I just can’t think to myself that 3 years ago, when I was a first year for the first time, that we were this stupid. I don’t really want to use the word stupid, but it seems that our current batch of first years are severely struggling. They don’t seem to grasp concepts as well, they can’t formulate arguments, and analytical thought is something very foreign.

Of course I’m generalising. On average my classes have upwards of 200 students, so it’s a little tricky to interview every single one of them. But you can tell, from the feedback from the lecturers, from the way they ask questions in class, and to how un-prepared they are. So I started looking for a common thread. And I found it.

Outcomes-Based Education. Kapow. This year the University has it’s first take-on of OBE matriculants. My sentiments are not just mine either. I currently live with someone who tutors first-years, and she has also noticed that this year’s first years are not the sharpest. She says that her tut classes are far from the lively periods of discussion that they are meant to be, and that she may just record her voice and play it back. The assignments she receives lack insight, instead being summaries on the work, instead of critical analysis. Someone else I spoke to (a third year student with first year subjects), has also noticed this. The future is looking grim. And please be aware that I am not blaming this on the past. Everyone seems to have been equally wronged by this system.

Who is responsible for all of this? I present to you:

Naledi Pandor. A South African minister. In France.

Naledi Pandor. South African Minister of Education. In France.

That’s right. Naledi Pandor. To be fair, it’s not all her fault, the ball was set in motion by her predecessor, Prof Kader Asmal. FUN FACT: Did you know Naledi Pandor holds a Masters Degree in General Linguistics? From Stellenbosch. I vividly remember the to and fro-ing in High School as we switched back and forth form OBE to traditional education. But I think the proof is plain to see, OBE is making the country stupid. And it’s not to late to stop it. The final nail in the coffin? Our friendly tourist, pictured above, sends her kids to a private school.

I rest my case.

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