The best can be better
IN the relentless quest for excellence in education and a school system that is seen to work, all the parties at the table want and expect similar outcomes… well-rounding and high achieving learners who will rise to their full potential, qualify for admission to tertiary institutions and eventually conquer the world with the arsenals that adulthood has equipped them with. Whether you are a parent, an educator, a politician or an administrator, we can all agree on these worthy objectives.
Beyond that, however, we agree on very little else, with each party ready to argue the correct and unique formula to achieve these objectives and make a success out of every learner exiting secondary level schooling with a matric certificate.
Last week’s reveal of the grade 12 ordinary-level school results produced very little surprises, with the usual crop of the highest performing state and private schools maintaining their positions. At the very top of the list of private schools was once again St Boniface College, a Roman Catholic church school in the Kavango East Region that has been ranked the best-performing school in Namibia for over 10 consecutive years.
The school’s learners also once again featured predominately among the country’s ten best ordinary-level Grade 12 performers. Although highly applauded for its continued excellence, the school, which has admitted to turning learners into perverbial working horses with a strict military style that includes forcing female learners to cut their hair short, banning mobile phones and romantic relationships, has also received its fair share of criticism from those who feel that that the school’s formula sets learners up for failure outside the controlled walls of the isolated Christian school.
I personally have nothing against a school that places emphasis on high academic expectations, creates a strict learning environment and highlights good behaviour. High expectations are a silver bullet and wherever they are applied, great things happen: learners are focused, grades go up and tertiary applications and the acceptance rates shoot through the roof. It is a well-known fact that schools that set the bar high are the schools that get results.
If we can all agree that learners should be pushed and encouraged to do their level best, then we should question if St. Boniface is doing just that or if it is dropping standards to appear to be doing just that for its many best performing pupils who easily achieve straight A* symbols in all their six subjects. Any school that is attaining the results that St. Boniface College has managed to over the years should be held to a different standard and should in fact be playing in the same league as the brightest minds in this country, and that is writing examinations on higher level.
So, I asked myself why a privately-run school like St. Boniface College, which has the means and resources and prides itself on high performance still does not offer subjects on higher level?
Is it that the school does not have enough confidence that its straight A achieving learners will equally do well on higher level, or is it that the school is determined to maintain its top position on ordinary level that it will not risk competing on a different battle field?
Whatever the school’s personal reasons for depriving its brightest learners a chance to truly elevate themselves, we cannot continue blindly applauding a school that has become too comfortable with Ordinary.