Dr Allen Grootboom, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson of Education
South Africa is waiting with bated breath for the outcomes of the Annual National Assessments to determine the literacy level and general proficiency in Maths and Science. While we cannot do worse than last year, when the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report placed South Africa 143 out of 144 countries, these results will indicate whether we have in fact improved in respect of our international standing in education.
When we evaluate our progress against the non delivery of essential learning material and the school intimidations in the Northern Cape, the picture does not look good at all. The only way forward is for us to perform better. However, a number of challenges that impact on the ANA results still remain unaddressed. These include:
– A mother tongue education continues to be neglected as parents opt for their children to be educated in English;
– The generally poor teacher specific training in institutions;
– The continuing changes in our curriculum;
– Assessment/ evaluation norms for educators, as the IQMS has shown to be dysfunctional;
– Unions dictating to the Ministry of Education.
What then are we to do to lift our standard of education? The DA has suggested a number of proposals. Even though the Ministry of Education has not pronounced itself against these proposals, the union has. This shows who is in charge of our education system. This is seriously jeopardizing SA’s future.
To arrest the backward trend of our education system, the ministry has to wrestle back control of education and face down teachers’ unions on issues of performance management and declaring education an essential service. This will in turn make teachers’ right to strike conditional on an agreed set of rules, with stiff fines and criminal charges for any violence and intimidation. Other accountability measures in the DA’s plans include regular testing for teachers on the subjects they teach; skills updates; the setting of minimum qualifications for principals; and performance agreements with rewards for meeting targets. Teachers with scarce skills should also be paid extra, creating a financial incentive for them and specialist training in maths and science teaching. We further propose specialized teacher training, the reopening of teacher training colleges, educator assessment via school inspections, and implementing educator discipline, especially against the backdrop of spiraling teacher absenteeism, and developing a strong code of
ethics. We also propose a decentralization of book distribution to allow for more transparency.
These suggestions as put forward by the DA might seem simplistic but in order to improve our education system, we have to get the basics right. Additionally these measures are not a magic wand to change education in the country but a step to better education. On the whole, education is not taken seriously enough. A number of educational experts have put suggestions forward but government does not seem to listen. Failing in education, we fail our children and we fail our future.