South Africa's Education Crisis and the Biblical Solution
Do you want your child to grow up to make a significant difference in the world for Christ?
Who is really discipling your children?
By the time your child finishes matric (grade 12) they will have spent over 15 000 hours in school. What worldview and values will they have learnt in that time? As a vital part of the daily practice of "bring(ing) them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord", it will influence their capacity to advance God's Kingdom in the world in general and more specifically through their vocation.
State-run education has been the norm in South Africa for so many decades. South Africa's education had, on the whole, been pretty good, albeit humanistic. Our children have learned to read, write and do arithmetic. We have had Bible Education presented in the classroom setting and many schools have started with a hymn, Bible reading and prayer in Assembly. Over the last decade, however, this has all come under threat. Matric exam results are viewed with suspicion. Private Schools, (including Private Christian Schools) are springing up all over and there are now over 100 000 children being homeschooled in South Africa.
Government School Chaos
In international studies of maths, science and literacy abilities, South African children fare among the worst. In tests on grade 8 pupils, South Africa came last in the 2003 Maths and Science indexes of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science study. It also came last out of 40 countries in the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. South Africa even ranked lower than Somalia! (See: South Africa's Educational Crisis http://www.teachsouthafrica.org/index.php/about/thecrisis/).
Paul Hoffman from the Institute of Accountability in Southern Africa writes, "A basic education must surely include imparting functional literacy in a technical sense. The last figures available are for 2007. In that year roughly 278 000 black pupils came out of school with a matric certificate, but only 42 000 of them turned out to be functionally literate when tested. Thus, out of the 1.2 million black pupils entering the public school system, only 3.5 percent emerge functionally literate. Also, the chief executive of the Institute of Race Relations reported that up to 80 percent of SA's public schools are dysfunctional despite a decade of increases in public spending on the education system." (letter to the Editor, Cape Argus, 2009).
Higher education specialists say first year university students lack essential reading, writing, maths and comprehension skills - raising questions about the implementation of curricula at schools and the value of the National Senior Certificate. They add that school leavers' lack of academic competence is also contributing to universities' high failure rates (Daily Dispatch, 2009).
SA Governement Receives 16 million from Dutch to Teach Evolution
The Africa Genome Education Institute announced in 2009 that an investment of R16 million was made by the Dutch government to educate teachers to teach evolution "correctly".
The money will be spent over 4 years and will be used to give teachers a better understanding of evolution. Evolution has been part of the grade 12 syllabus since 2008 and is part of the grade 10 syllabus since the beginning of April 2009. Ms Cheryl Douglas, one of the managers of the project and a teacher at Bishops, said certain myths about evolution and natural selection, as well as the proof of such processes will be taught.
This is despite the fact that there is no proof for evolution whatsoever.
Teachers will be taught strategies to teach evolution effectively at schools and they will be given all the material they needed.
My Yousaf Gabru, the MEC of Education in the Western Cape, supports this project wholeheartedly. He says it is part of the syllabus and must thus be accepted. (17 March 2009, Die Burger).
What will the consequences be of teaching children that they came from nothing, are going nowhere and that life is meaningless?
Immoral, Pro-abortion Sex Education
Planned Parenthood South Africa won the national tender to train teachers in sex education and provide sex education textbooks under the Life Orientation learning area.
Planned Parenthood is the world's largest and richest Non Governmental Organisation (NGO). They are the world's largest abortion provider and are driven by a eugenics programme that sought to model itself on Nazism. PP operates in South Africa under the name Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa (PPASA), but has many fronts including LoveLife and the Reproductive Rights Alliance (pro-abortion lobby group) (State Education, a sinking ship? Christian Action magazine 2002).
Child Abusers in the Classroom
While the sex education programmes (such as LoveLife) have been known to have disastrous affects on children, they appear to be affecting teachers too. Messages of "condomise" encourage promiscuity rather than preventing it. A study revealed that teachers commit a third of all child abuse in South Africa (The Citizen, 31 January 2002). In one year, 2008, in the Western Cape, 46 cases of sexual abuse by teachers were reported by the Western Cape Education Department (Schools not acting on abuse reports - study, 15 April 2009, Cape Times).
STD Infected Teachers
In addition, a recent World Bank study claims that 40,000 of the 360,000 teachers in South Africa are HIV positive. (State Education, a sinking ship? Christian Action magazine 2002). Can they be Godly role models for our children?
A Cape Times article (6 September 2006) reported that in the Western Cape, one in 10 schoolgirls claim pregnancy as a reason for not attending school. NGOs that work with youth, say that there has been a "huge increase" in teen pregnancies in the Western Cape. In the Free State, one girl had three abortions without her parents knowing. In 2006 alone, eight girls from a high school in the Zululand area in KwaZulu Natal fell pregnant. In Gauteng, more than 2,000 schoolgirls have fallen pregnant over the past two years.
Education by Television Soap Operas
As part of current Outcomes Based Education curricula (due to be disbanded), children are required to evaluate scenarios from soapies or other TV programmes, for example about drugs, as part of Life Orientation exams. This of course assumes that children have watched these TV programmes.
A 2009 grade 11 IEB Life Sciences exam question illustrates the pro-abortion indoctrination happening in schools: Students are required to give the advantages and disadvantages of the Abortion Amendment Bill and the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill (2007) and to state whether they agree or disagree with Doctors for Life's objections to the two bills. However, there are NO advantages to either of the Bills and therefore pro-life students would forfeit 3 marks.
Transcendental Meditation to be Taught to 30 000 Children
An organization based on the teachings of Hindu Guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi , The Centre for Consciousness-based Education, received funding in 2009 from a Beatles Reunion concert to teach Transcendental Meditation (TM) to 30 000 school children across the country. TM has already been introduced to many schools in KwaZulu Natal, particularly in Hindu-dominated areas but also to several schools in Alexandra, a township just outside Johannesburg (http://www.sagoodnews.co.za/education/beatles_reunion_benefits_sa.html).
Violence in the Schools
South Africa's schools are some of the most dangerous in the world, accord ing to statistics published by the South African Institute of Race Relations in 2008. Only 23% of South African pupils said they felt safe at school. On average South Africa's schools ranked more than 20 percentage po ints below the world-wide country average of 47% of pupils declar ing that they felt a high degree of safety in the classroom.
The Institute's f ind ings follow a host of recent media reports of shoot ings, stabb ings, rapes, and robberies at schools. (http://www.sairr.org.za/press-office/archive/south-african-schools-most-dangerous-in-the-world-2013-only-23-of-pupils-safe.html).
Theft and Vandalism of School Property
Schools routinely have to fork out money to pay for repairs to damaged property and losses from theft. In 2009, 21 schools were reported to have been vandalized and robbed in the Western Cape (http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2010/10011811151002.htm).
Many teachers have reported the growing problems of disruptive, disrespectful, and undisciplined learners. At some schools, teachers have been physically abused and threatened with a knife.
Wide Gates to Hell
Dr Martin Luther's warning given almost 500 years ago has proved true: "I am much afraid that schools will prove to be wide gates to hell unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them on the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not constantly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt."
Maybe the L ord is allowing this shaking so that Christians will wake up and realise their God-given responsibility to ensure their children are educated according to a Biblical Worldview. Parents can delegate the task, but not the responsibility of educating their children.
Internationally respected Focus on the Family Founder, Dr. James Dobson has called for American parents to take their children out of public schools, and I think we should do the same.
To Whom Do Your Children Belong?
The answer that Christians have given down through the ages was first given by the Patriarch Jacob: "The children God has graciously given [me]" (Genesis 33:5).
"Christians have always held that children belong to God in the first instance and that He entrusts them to their parents. We affirm that children are a blessing from God of worth beyond human capacity to measure and should be welcomed joyously into the family as precious gifts from Him," is how the booklet The Christian Worldview of the Family puts it. " Children belong to God alone, with the parents being their God-ordained stewards. God gives parents the primary responsibility and authority for the education and physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of their children (Gen 33:5; Dt 4:9; 6:1-9; Ps 78:1-8; 127:3-5; Prov 17:6; 1 Tim 2:15; Eph 6:1-4)."
What the Bible Says about Educating our Children
Homeschool pioneers in South Africa, Graham and Alison Shortridge point out that, "It's important to realise that, while God has given us clearly defined models for the family, the church, business and the state, He has not given any model for 'the school' as we have come to understand the term.
"Instead, parents are clearly instructed to educate their children in the ways and will of God and this includes the giving of instruction in the disciplines related to the physical universe: Maths, Science, Biology, Languages, Geography, etc. In fact, we are told in Romans 1:20 that we learn about God "by the things He has made" and these things are things that should normally form part of the curriculum that children learn in school.
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" Romans 1 :20.
"We are warned against a secular curriculum, where God is no longer the centre as commanded in His Word. Man in his 'wisdom' now attributes the glory to himself and to evolution instead of to God. The result is foolishness and depravity."
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened ... Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Romans 1:21, 28.
Parents can delegate the task, but not the responsibility, for the education of their children.
Children do not belong to the state. They belong to God and are entrusted by Him to parents to: "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Parents are responsible under God to oversee the teachers, textbooks and syllabi that will shape and fill their children's minds for their 15,000 hours of schooling.
The Goal of Education
The goal of education must be to prepare each student to glorify God, to enjoy Him in worship and to serve the Lord in their chosen calling. A Christian education is not a curriculum with the Bible added to it. Rather the Word of God must inspire, inform and govern every subject in the curriculum.
Ideally there should be a healthy triangular relationship between three role-players - the parents, the church and the school. While the parents are the pivotal role-players (Deut. 6:7-9), this triangular relationship sets up an accountability structure as follows:
- The Church preaches Biblical doctrine and truth, which forms the theological foundation of the school and the family. They encourage and guide parents, from Scripture, to take up their Biblical responsibility to educate and raise their children in the fear of the LORD. At its heart Christianity is a teaching religion - Jesus Christ is referred to as "Teacher" (John 3:2), the Holy Spirit's ministry includes teaching (John 14:26) and the Great Commission includes "teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you" (Math. 28:20). Christianity and the Church have always supported education.
- The parents are the primary role-players in the child's education, discipline and rearing in the fear of the LORD. They support their child going to Church, heeding the Word of the LORD as well as in receiving an education.
- The school expounds on the Biblical Worldview, looking at all areas of life, including from mathematics, to the sciences, to the languages and the arts from a Biblical Christian perspective. This is to equip the Christian child to take dominion for Christ and His Kingdom. It really is an extension of the parent's mandate to "train up a child in the way he should go (according to his character, calling and God-given talents), and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6) and the Church's mandate to "make disciples of all nations" (Math. 28:19).
All three key role-players re-enforce one another and eradicate the mixed-messages between the values of the Church and home been put against the secular humanist values of the public school. They mutually support godly discipline and therefore reduce delinquency and increase Christ-like character. Godly discipline allows for greater learning, hence greater academic achievements. It is important that parents be the main governors of schools to keep accountability to a maximum. All three are subject to the Word of God.
Praying before a class with a humanistic curriculum is not a Christian education, neither is having a Christian staff with a secular humanistic curriculum a Christian education.
How Subjects Relate to God
George Orwell warned: "If people cannot write well" (or read well) "they cannot think well. If they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them." Reading and writing are the fundamental skills learned at school. Language is thought expressed. But thoughts are never neutral. So students need to learn to test literature by Biblical standards.
In Mathematics we learn God's constant principles for studying, measuring and evaluating God's universe. Numbers are an expression of God's orderliness. The decimal system itself is based on God's creation (E.g.: ten fingers, ten toes, Ten Commandments).
Science is the study of God's physical laws in Creation.
History is the study of God's moral Laws in His government over men and nations.
In Physical Education we learn the importance of a balanced diet and lifestyle and we learn to develop self-discipline in training (thus taking care of our bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Spirit). Teamwork, winning and losing graciously and playing by the rules are all essential aspects of Physical Education.
The greater the influence of such constructive Christian principles upon a system of education, the greater the spiritual and academic potential of the students will be realised.
"All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace" (Isaiah 54:13).
Teach your Children Constantly
"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
We are to fix the Words (Law) of God in our hearts and minds. This is demonstrated in the way we act (hands) and the way we think (foreheads). We are to diligently teach them to our children. Whenever we are together: at home, when we go out, before we go to bed, when we get up. In other words every aspect of our children's instruction is to be God-centred and God-glorifying. This does not leave space for a "time off" of six hours a day, five days a week, for godless state schooling!
We are also to make a public profession of our faith by having visible signs of our faith on our homes and property. It also indicates that every area of our lives and everything entrusted to our stewardship is to be governed by the Word of God. God has promised rewards for obedience and has warned that His wrath will fall on the disobedient (see the parallel passage; Deut 11:13-28).
"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..." (Joshua 24:15)
Home and Christian Schools vs. State Schools
For many, home schooling is a daunting option, but one that is being exercised more frequently and openly in South Africa. Our constitution makes provision for it and there are South African curricula available to assist in home schooling from a Christian perspective. For others, Christian private schooling will be the option they choose.
Remember too, that Christian schools that run the state curriculum without careful adaptation are simply humanistic schools with a Christian flavour. Christian schools should teach all subjects from a Biblical perspective. The training of teachers is another aspect that needs to be considered; ideally teachers for Christian schools should be trained in Christian colleges with a Biblical worldview. In the meantime, parents should encourage their children's teachers to attend seminars that promote the Lordship of Christ over all areas of life such as The Biblical Worldview Seminar.
Those who are unable to homeschool, or send their children to a Christian school, have a very tough position. They need to monitor their children's teachers, textbooks and videos closely, as well as supplementing their child's education through daily family devotions and Christian educational materials. They need to be prepared to participate in the Parent-Teachers Association and raise their voice in opposition to unbiblical viewpoints in education. And they need to pray for great wisdom and discernment in their fight to protect the hearts and minds of their children.
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
Adapted and updated by Taryn Hodgson from articles by Miriam Cain, Rob McCafferty, Alison Shortridge and Lenora Hammond. Published in its original form in Make a Difference: A Christian Handbook for Southern Africa and Reforming Our Families.
Some Homeschool Curriculum providers in South Africa:
Accelerated Christian Education: 031 - 573 6500,
Why Homeschooling? Frequently Asked Questions on Homeschooling - Alison Shortridge
The Value of a Christian Education - Dr Peter Hammond
Responsible Education - Lenora Hammond
Homeschooling - Is Now the Time? - Lenora Hammond