It came to me as a big surprise that many South African education professionals seem to regard Life Orientation as an insignificant, to some even a worthless part of our education. Many learners also seem to view life orientation as unnecessary, boring and irrelevant. This attitude is not unique to South Africa; a British study showed that more than three-quarters of schools were failing to provide sufficient guidance (life orientation and study- and career development) to pupils in the last few years of secondary education.
Life orientation is aimed at developing and engaging learners in personal, psychological, neuro-cognitive, motor, physical, moral, spiritual, cultural and socio-economic areas, so that they can achieve their full potential in the new democracy of South Africa (Department of Education, 2002; 2003:9). This learning area is furthermore intended to promote social justice, human rights, and inclusiveness, as well as a healthy environment (Department of Education, 2003b:5).
These are worthy educational goals and define in exact terms the gravity of the subject in question. Life Orientation, though not an academic subject, constitutes the glue that binds much of our education, and for that matter, the rest of our life together. The question at heart is not whether life orientation is a worthy subject, but it is rather a challenge to ourselves to find its appropriate space in our education.
International studies show that between 40 and 60 percent school leavers say that they had not received enough study- and career guidance to make informed decisions about their future. This lack of sufficient guidance comes at a high cost to individuals, but also places a heavy burden on the economy. A study by the Dutch National Think Tank estimates a €5 billion price tag for the country, on an annual basis, as a direct- and indirect result of wrong study- and career choices. Add to this the fact that Study- and Career Orientation only forms a small part of our life orientation curriculum, and the urgency and value of the subject quickly morphs into an educational priority. Its value is, in its most rudimentary form undeniable, especially in view of the disturbing level of risk behaviours displayed by children and adolescents. Life Orientation is the only platform from which learners can acquire life skills, democracy skills and vital knowledge about our diverse country and the world.
It is the only space in our education where we can teach our children how to make motivated life choices.
Give Learners More Ownership in Life Orientation.
There are many factors which influence the delivery of effective Life Orientation. Not only is the learning area broad in scope and akin to an open-ended process of lifelong learning, it is also difficult to scientifically evaluate and measure its outcomes. Problems such as ill-equipped teachers and other educational challenges - a lack of time and resources - contribute to the fact that Life Orientation does not receive the attention it deserves.
Does this leave us without any solutions? To prepare our learners for the future is not an exact science and can never be fully accomplished within the confines of formal education. Not even the best of parents, let alone teachers, can claim ownership of such a feat. No one can score a 100 percent for the subject.
We can do better though. The advance of communication technology has created an environment in which young people, without any guidance or supervision, are already able to expand their experience, knowledge and understanding of the world, in ways that goes beyond their formal education. The good, the bad and the ugly.
The challenge to education is not to view the disappearing borders between formal and informal learning as a threat, but rather as a welcome opportunity to expand the formal learning environment in ways never done before; by inviting the business-, industrial and social sector into the classroom, to create structural, collaborative partnerships between schools and the real world. To facilitate a safe environment where learners can take ownership of a vital part of their education (Life Orientation) in a structured fashion and with the support and guidance of their and mentors.
talkUBUNTU has created a learning environment for schools to bridge the gap between learning and working and to create a space where learners can explore the many opportunities, challenges and dilemmas associated with growing up and finding their place in society.
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The talkUBUNTU platform is designed as a 'Facebook' for schools, a social media environment familiar to all, especially young people, and developed to support Life Orientation learning. It is a powerful tool in the hands of the Life Orientation teacher and helps to broaden learner's knowledge and understanding of the world.
No school. however good or bad, or for that matter, no teacher, however good or bad, can ever, given the lack of available roster hours and resources, do justice to a learning areas as broad as Life Orientation. By giving ownership of this vitally important area of learning to learners, we all can go a long way towards supporting the personal-, social- and study- & career development of our youth. All it takes a bit of creativity, courage and trust.
- This article was written by Johan Allers, Founder, talkUBUNTU Foundation.
Photo Courtesy: www.york.ac.uk