New teach­ers will have to shape up

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

Newly qual­i­fied teach­ers will soon be re­quired to prove them­selves in the class­room be­fore they get a li­cence to teach. And if ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers want to be pro­moted to po­si­tions such as prin­ci­pal, deputy or head of depart­ment, they will also have to prove they can do the job. Th­ese are some of the mea­sures form­ing part of a mas­sive over­haul of the coun­try’s teach­ing body, which the SA Coun­cil of Ed­u­ca­tors (Sace), the reg­u­la­tory body for teach­ers, has come up with to pro­fes­sion­alise the oc­cu­pa­tion.

In an in­ter­view with City Press, Sace chief ex­ec­u­tive Rej Bri­jraj said the coun­cil was de­vel­op­ing min­i­mum pro­fes­sional stan­dards that teach­ers would have to meet at dif­fer­ent stages of their ca­reers. The stan­dards, he said, would be linked to cer­tain com­pe­ten­cies, which teach­ers would have to mas­ter to climb the pro­fes­sional lad­der.

“Sace is in the process of de­ter­min­ing pro­fes­sional stan­dards for all teach­ers. They will have to abide by them to main­tain their teach­ing li­cences, and will have to ob­tain and dis­play cer­tain com­pe­ten­cies,” he said.

“When a grad­u­ate leaves col­lege or univer­sity, they will re­ceive pro­vi­sional reg­is­tra­tion. Af­ter a pe­riod of in­duc­tion, which is yet to be de­cided, they will get their first-level reg­is­tra­tion. I pre­dict they [those who do not meet the stan­dards] will be given ex­tended time to meet the stan­dards and, if they do not, I sus­pect they will have to leave the pro­fes­sion.”

Bri­jraj said that as teach­ers im­proved in com­pe­tence, they would be granted dif­fer­ent lev­els of reg­is­tra­tion. Th­ese could also be linked to their salary bands.

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“If you want to be a prin­ci­pal, you will have to meet cer­tain cri­te­ria and com­pe­ten­cies. The same will ap­ply to deputy prin­ci­pals, heads of depart­ment, ex­pe­ri­enced and ju­nior teach­ers,” he said.

“Teach­ers will be given des­ig­na­tions, such as ‘ju­nior’ and ‘se­nior’ teach­ers. We are over­haul­ing the en­tire sys­tem; we want to bring pride and pro­fes­sion­al­ism into the sys­tem.”

Bri­jraj said the coun­cil would con­sider im­ple­ment­ing com­pe­tence tests con­ducted with teach­ers’ pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment in mind, as op­posed to puni­tive tests.

How­ever, the 254 000-strong teach­ers’ union Sadtu has con­sis­tently op­posed the in­tro­duc­tion of com­pe­tence tests for teach­ers. Be­cause it re­mained to be seen whether teach­ers’ unions would op­pose ap­ply­ing th­ese mea­sures to ex­ist­ing teach­ers, Bri­jraj said, the sys­tem would be ap­plied mainly to new teach­ers.

He added that it would “take a gen­er­a­tion” to im­ple­ment the re­forms. Al­though he stip­u­lated no time frames, he said Sace would fin­ish its work on the min­i­mum pro­fes­sional stan­dards by year-end.

Sace is also pi­lot­ing its Con­tin­u­ing Pro­fes­sional Teacher De­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, aimed at en­cour­ag­ing teach­ers who are now in the sys­tem to de­velop them­selves pro­fes­sion­ally. Teach­ers are ex­pected to ac­cu­mu­late 150 points over a three-year cy­cle. Al­though th­ese points can be ac­cu­mu­lated by at­tend­ing train­ing cour­ses, they can also be earned by read­ing pro­fes­sional mag­a­zines and at­tend­ing run-of-the-mill staff meet­ings at their schools, or union meet­ings.

The pro­gramme, said Bri­jraj, was prompted by the re­al­i­sa­tion that teacher train­ing cour­ses had “se­ri­ous deficits”.

“The coun­cil has re­alised that teacher prepa­ra­tion has not been sat­is­fac­tory. Teach­ers are not well pre­pared for chal­lenges in the class­room. But we also want teach­ers to be role mod­els for life­long learn­ing,” he said.

Pro­fes­sor Sarah Gravett, dean of the fac­ulty of education at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, said she was aware that Sace had been con­sult­ing a wide ar­ray of academics and oth­ers over the new pro­fes­sional stan­dards.

“In prin­ci­ple, the idea of pro­fes­sional stan­dards for teach­ers is ex­cel­lent. Many coun­tries have them al­ready. But we will have to wait un­til we see the end prod­uct. We do not want to get car­ried away un­til we see how the end prod­uct will as­sist in teacher train­ing and in teach­ers’ pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment.

“I am ab­so­lutely sup­port­ive of the idea; it should have been done many years ago. But bet­ter late than never.”

Nkosana Dolopi, deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary of Sadtu, said the union was not op­posed to the de­vel­op­ment of min­i­mum pro­fes­sional stan­dards. “All pro­fes­sions are guided by some­thing, so why would we op­pose one for our sec­tor? But we will wait for them to con­sult us be­fore we agree to any­thing.”

The coun­cil, said Bri­jraj, was not only in­ter­ested in pro­vid­ing teach­ers with skills to pro­duce bet­ter re­sults.

“We also want to em­power teach­ers holis­ti­cally to en­hance their char­ac­ter pro­files by ex­pos­ing them to cor­rect at­ti­tudes. We have a very broad view of pro­fes­sional teach­ers’ de­vel­op­ment. That is the surest way to de­velop the so­ci­ety we need,” he said.

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