Sceptics point out that the initiative costs extra money and may not be sustainable over the long term. Maybe, but we will save millions of Rands by not having to teach the same children the same lessons twice because they no longer fail – at the moment 1 in 10 children will have repeat a grade at least three times. That will free up a lot of money into the system, and perhaps open new pathways to sustainability.
That said, this intervention is a pilot, and as such we not sure that it will work, because the learning gaps between rich and poor children are already so pronounced by the time they enter school. But, we are sure that the idea is worth trying. For that reason, we’ve appointed an independent team of evaluators to assess impact and cost-effectiveness.
On its own, this incremental innovation is not radical enough to transform the education system. But, it could nurture a new branch of public education to be grasped by thousands of children now entering school who are destined to fail because nobody really expects dramatic changes in the education system over the next decade. Unquestionably, part of the solution is doing what we do better. Part of it is doing things differently. We must therefore resist the instinct to nip off promising new shoots for fear they morph into something else. Change requires courage, imagination and trust – and trust can be built if we put children’s interests ahead of our own.