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

CityPress - - Voices - Mot­shekga is the min­is­ter of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion

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.

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