Although education always should have been and occasionally was “child-orientated” in the past, this philosophy of schooling has never been quite so stressed as in recent years.
The department of education in South Africa has joined the movement and is introducing “differentiated education”. By definition, this means that each child will be given the opportunity to develop his or her particular talent at an earlier age. The less academically-minded pupil will be able to pursue his commercial or technical bent, leaving school with an ‘O’-level certificate while others can study at a higher academic level at school. This, it is hoped, will help to bridge the gap between school and university.
Roedean, too, has made an attempt to bridge a gap; that which exists between junior and senior school. The Upper IV’s are now attached to the Senior School. They are not, however, totally integrated – the boarders still sleep in the Junior School, they don’t have the same teachers – a few minor points which have helped to increase the security of the pupils who might otherwise have been bewildered by the sudden change. This is, then another example of adjusting the environment of schools to suit the child – a situation in which pupils are more relaxed and can fulfil their potential to a greater degree.
All this constitutes a fairly radical change and any change of this nature must be accompanied by alterations in other branches of education.
One change which has occurred is to the image of the teacher. This is undoubtedly in many ways a change for the better. No longer is a teacher a far-off, inaccessible figure, viewed through a haze of unreality. At last the discovery has been made that they are humans, real people with similar emotions, beliefs and ideas to those of our own parents. This situation is definitely more conductive to communication than the old one. And without this communication the true purpose of
education – a development of the pupil’s ability not the imposing of a thin coating of someone els’s ideas onto the child – was often lost.