Teacher union Sadtu adopted some obstructionist resolutions at its conference last week to stymie measures to fix the education system. explains the state’s rationale behind the proposals
ISadtu members are unwilling to accept suggestions that Annual National Assessments, biometric systems and competency tests for markers of matric scripts be implemented have noted the resolutions taken at the end of the eighth national general congress of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu). At the outset, we want to state it is the fruitful relationship between teachers and learners that results in a good learning environment. Equally, a good relationship between government and trade unions ensures system stability and a favourable environment for quality education to thrive. We understand that teachers, including school management teams, ought to retain their professional self-confidence and independence.
This independence extends to being members of a teacher union of their choice. Inherently, teacher unions have a right to differ with the education authorities.
Among Sadtu’s many resolutions, I wish to address three that are of huge interest – Sadtu’s call for a review of the Annual National Assessments (ANAs), the biometric system to monitor teacher attendance as well as competency tests for matric script markers.
ANAs were put in place by the basic education department to annually measure progress in pupils’ achievements to ensure that at least 60% of our pupils achieve acceptable levels in literacy and numeracy. It is a tool that assesses whether a child needs extra help. ANAs have never and will never be used as a punitive measure for teachers, as some delegates asserted.
Based on the results, a teacher can see to what extent pupils measure up to expectations, which informs their classroom learning plans. Results of ANAs also assist district officials in designing school improvement plans and rendering appropriate support to schools.
The ANAs are here to stay until our learners have reached internationally accepted levels in literacy and numeracy. The department has already begun deliberating on the best form of administering ANAs. The proposal is to have them every three years.
The department is committed to improving the quality of marking. We have taken steps to introduce measures that will help in the appointment of suitably qualified and experienced markers who should provide work of high quality. The system seeks to ensure quality and consistency across the system. Once the marker arrives at the centre, guidelines will be discussed and the marker will be trained. As part of the training, markers will be required to grade the same script that has been made available to all markers.
The outcome of each marker will be discussed to ensure the differences in the number of marks awarded is minimised. This process is repeated with at least three to five additional scripts. At the end of this process, it will be assumed markers have developed/not developed a consistent approach to marking. This is part of the training programme and there is nothing untoward about the process. On the biometric systems, it is undeniable that a reliable access control and identification system, combined with effective entry/exit policies, will not only substantially enhance the security of any school environment, but will instil punctuality, ensuring attendance and contact time with learners. With an increased emphasis on safety and accountability in schools, biometric technology, or any accountability mechanism for that matter, will become must-haves if we are serious about quality education.
The truth is, with any job, workerS must continually demonstrate their competency and worth to the larger institution. Perhaps it is time that teaching, society’s most crucial profession, is held up to that same criterion.
The performance of our schools is critical if we are to make progress and there is a need to sustain public confidence in the ability of teachers to produce quality in the system.
The first cornerstone of a quality education begins with ensuring every learner has a solid background in reading, writing, computing and critical reasoning. This can only be achieved if the learner has a teacher appropriately trained in teaching the correct subject within the approved curricula.
The second cornerstone is world-class teachers. Through increased professional development, continual assessment and improved accountability for teachers and administrators, we can ensure that all learners will be taught by people who have the knowledge, skills and commitment to teach.
The third is the role of communities whose children the system is meant to serve. These communities are shareholders and have invested their taxes to ensure a viable system. These communities must ensure the accountability of the system as a whole – from teacher attendance to learner behaviour and school safety, among others. But any system’s improvement efforts will make little difference if teachers reject government policies and bunk classes.
Let us all remind Sadtu while it is an important stakeholder, it’s not government. It is the government of the day elected by the people that must drive improvements in the basic education sector for the benefit of future generations.
Teacher accountability, diagnostic tools such as ANAs and being at school on time is non-negotiable.