In the past decade, a number of chains of private schools have sprung up around South Africa. They provide a quality education, of course, but one of their primary focuses and certainly one of their primary marketing tools is to churn out matriculants with a fist full of distinctions. It’s not unusual for these schools to have matriculants who do 8, 9 or even 10 subjects (the requirement is 6), achieving most with distinction. Most of these students have expected to have universities clamouring for them, but that is starting to change.
Both the University of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand University medical schools last year rejected many applicants with top academic qualifications, favouring applicants with life skills and the emotional intelligence required to be a doctor. Although this was partly due to South Africa’s need to redress past imbalances, it was not simply about affirmative action and limited places. It was about these medical school saying that it takes more than just academic intelligence to be a good doctor. The same is true for most of the other professions.
It’s exciting to see universities, those social institutions supposedly geared towards the future skills requirements of society, starting to understand some of the implications of the movement to a connection/emotion economy.

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