News reports about failure of online schools misleading
Online school, Brainline, has described recent news reports that online schools have failed learners who have accessed online learning, as misleading and disheartening. Weekend newspapers suggested that many learners, who joined online schools due to Covid, have fallen behind academically and will have to go back to lower grades to catch up should they wish to re-join traditional schools. Brainline CEO, Coleen Cronje, says it is not accurate nor fair to judge online schooling based on the experience of a few.
The truth of the matter is, not all learners fit into traditional schools. The same holds true for online schools. That, however, does not mean that online schools should be side-lined as being only ”supportive“, as the results for Brainline Matriculants over the past five (5) years have been consistently higher than that of the National Pass Rate from the Department of Education. This is a clear indication that matriculants who engage with online learning, are successful and can access tertiary education with confidence.” Cronje says.
Cronje says online schools are years ahead of traditional schools when it comes to using technology and preparing learners for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Online schools are using current technology and numerous other education innovations to provide access to education for Grade R – 12 learners, where there is a dire need. It is estimated that 40% of learners who enter Grade 1 at traditional schools, never make it to their final Grade 12 year due to numerous factors. It is, therefore, clear that alternative schooling options are essential to ensure these learners do not fall off the grid.”
E-learning has already been embraced by schools and universities around the country and the world. Cronje says it is estimated that 31.18 million South Africans have access to the internet, while there are 28.9 million active mobile users. She says it is therefore of the utmost importance that access to online classrooms enjoy more prominence.
One must realise that traditional schools do not cater to the needs of learners entering the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Instead, such schools have to actively engage with technology, using an outdated curriculum better suited to the Industrial Age.”
Cronje says Brainline started out as a distance education school in 1996 but by embracing technology, has grown into the first online school registered with the Independent Examinations Board. Cronje says this relationship has proven to be successful for Brainline’s Grade 12’s.
Our pass rate has been consistently higher than 80% over the last few years. During the ”Covid“ year of 2020, our pass rate exceeded that of the Department of Education – again. This is a clear indication that learners who are motivated to enter online schools, are successful. They are ambitious and courageous individuals who work towards their own personal goals – consistently. They need not be “spoon-fed” to ensure their academic success,” Cronje reiterates.
Cronje says Brainline has experienced the anomaly of academic performances of learners new to online schooling, initially being lower during the first semester or two. She says these same learners have, however, consistently, later improved academically. Students acquire the skills to work independently and diligently, and to think critically and apply their knowledge, whilst parents support their children through the process.
As an online school, Brainline has put in place a number of factors to ensure the validity, reliability and consistency of assessments, these include:
- Independent marking to ensure objectivity, thereby removing interferences or prejudice.
- Marking that is done by qualified markers, with test, assignments and exams that are moderated both pre- and post-marking.
- Assessment is done strictly according to the requirements of the Independent Examinations Board (IEB).
- Assessment criteria requires critical thinking and application of knowledge – a skill required at tertiary level.
It is worrying to learn that aspects of home schooling are intermingled with aspects surrounding online schools, which are intended to be aligned with the Revised National Curriculum Statement and CAPS, enabling learners to move seamlessly between traditional schools and online schools,” Cronje reflects.
Cronje says it is time that online schools are supported in their endeavours to be registered by the Department of Education, which will enable them to lobby other stakeholders for better support for learners in this environment. This includes lower cost for data and technological devices. Cronje says recent news articles are short-sighted to dismiss the role of online schools because it is not registered with the DBE.
The reason that this article is disheartening to online schools, are multiple. Online schools have been advocating for the registration of such schools with the Department of Education for MANY years. Umalusi (the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training in South Africa) has also been lobbied on numerous occasions to act in this matter, with no result. I have been part of such meetings on multiple occasions, presenting to those in authority as well as being part of countless information sessions called by both Umalusi and the Department of Education, since 1996,” Cronje explains.
Cronje says a different approach is needed from especially the DBE.
It is sad to learn that instead of the Department of Education engaging with and supporting the efforts of online schools, the ”stick“ is used, rather than the ”carrot“. Online schools are ready and waiting to engage with all stakeholders in this essential sector of education at school level. Not only to take part in legislation, registration and compliance, but also in active providers of solutions to the education sector,” she says.
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