When the latest South African high school graduation exams results were announced in January of this year amid a furore of expert criticism, I felt I’d made the right decision in moving my daughter into an international education system.
As a teacher myself, I have witnessed what many believe to be falling standards in education and the challenges this brings to students in their first year at university. A low pass rate for the graduation exam means that many students qualify to go onto university but discover when they get there, that they do not have the right skills to cope at that higher level. It is a real issue in this country that of every 1,000 children who start out in grade one in national education, only around five make it through tertiary education.
I’m fortunate that in my professional career I was introduced to the educational route that is also proving successful for my daughter. I started my career in government schools, but my teaching style didn’t always suit the official style. A school which offers qualifications from Cambridge International Examinations opened in my local area in 1999 and it didn’t take me long to realise that this was a syllabus I wanted to teach.
My friends teaching at the College persuaded me to join the team in 2001 and it was the best decision I have ever made for my career. The qualifications suit my teaching style and I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of being able to develop my students and their attributes and interests as part of a bigger picture.
As my daughter approached high school age, she was also increasingly looking for a school environment which would give her more freedom, encourage creativity and prepare her well for university.
With this in mind, in her grade 8 year, we enrolled my daughter at the school where I teach – Ridgeway College in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province. In recent years, she has studied a number of international qualifications, first Cambridge IGCSE and now Cambridge International AS Level. The benefits of these international qualifications are manifold.
Cambridge qualifications are recognised by universities all over the world – they provide students with skills they need to flourish in tertiary education. Locally, our universities are also becoming increasingly aware of the exceptionally high standard of education that Cambridge students enter into university with. Students are equipped with universal thinking skills, an analytical perspective and an ability to adapt to any change in their environment. They are taught communication skills, self-discipline, independent thinking and the ability to work on their own as well as a level of confidence that makes them stand head and shoulders above their peers in other systems.
Furthermore, international qualifications prepare young people for the world at large, above and beyond university. I feel my daughter has been provided with a holistic, flexible education that enables her to cope in a workplace that – in today’s world – is fast moving and ever changing. She’ll be able to cope with new situations and be able to face challenges and move beyond her comfort zone. What’s more, emigration is definitely featuring more strongly in young people’s future plans than ever. By providing our children with the opportunity to do an international education, we are enabling them to have a wider choice for career options or studying overseas.
I feel certain that my daughter is much better prepared than her peers to cope with the ever-increasing demands of the outside world, because she has a set of skills that makes her adaptable and able to cope with pressure and large volumes of work. Her level of confidence has shot up as she has been given the skills to communicate, to analyse and to problem solve in every aspect of her academic and personal, life.
I fully believe that our choice of qualifications have helped my daughter work towards achieving her long-held career dream of becoming an Air Traffic Controller.
In Grade 10, she completed work experience at the Air Force Base, coming home at the end of the first day having memorized the call signs of the fighter aircraft pilots, and being able to read and interpret both the weather station’s data and the radar system. She received a glowing appraisal for her confidence and her ability to analyse, interpret and apply information totally new to her.
As a teacher, I’ve witnessed how an international education can steer a student towards success but it’s really as a mother that I have experienced the full impact of these qualifications on all aspects of a young person’s life and I look forward to watching my daughter continue to reap the benefits for many years to come.
By Annaline Smit, mother and teacher at Ridgeway College, Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province, South Africa