Pandemic or not, South African parents are starting to make decisions about schools for their children in 2021 – and they’re increasingly looking at schools that balance academic skills with a greater focus on the ‘soft skills’ needed to survive and thrive not only in the new world of work, but a world irreversibly changed by Covid-19.
Stacey Brewer, the CEO of private school network SPARK Schools, says that when it comes to choosing the ‘right’ school, three key factors stand out above the rest: affordability, safety and the quality of education.
“When it comes to quality of education, parents are increasingly looking for ‘soft skills’ – the attitudes, behaviours, qualities and mindsets that will help their children work well with other people, and be resilient and open to change,” said Brewer. “The World Economic Forum predicts that the children of today can expect to change jobs at least seven times during their working lives, and a third of the skills needed to thrive in a job will be different in the next five years.”
SPARK Schools has just opened its enrolments for 2021, and Brewer admits that the Covid-19 pandemic cast has had ‘a massive impact’ on the school’s planning and budgeting, with no increase in school fees for the coming year to help struggling parents. In addition, SPARK Schools has partnered with the Ignite Education Fund to ensure the ongoing education of learners whose families have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had to make tremendous adjustments to the way we teach and learn and have gone out of our way to provide home learning options. Schools are open for parents who choose to send their children, with grades split into groups and attending school two or three days a week. We’ve got an Online Home Learning portal, with live lessons online, for those parents who want to keep their kids home and have access to data; and we also provide material via WhatsApp and paper-based Home Learning packs that parents can collect from the school for those parents with limited or no access to data,” said Brewer.
Brewer believes the major skills schools should be teaching South Africa’s youth include communication, self-control, teamwork and problem-solving, which enable young people to become adaptable, lifelong learners. This has been particularly relevant during the Covid-19 crisis, she says.
“The mastery of soft skills correlates with improved outcomes in school, work and life. We find that learners use these tools to manage their time, resolve conflict, build friendships, and communicate effectively in class, on the playground, and even at home,” said Brewer. “We want to build young people who are better friends, family members, and community members.” 2021 enrolments for SPARK Schools are now open. To find out more visit their website