President of NAPTOSA, Mr Basil Manuel
The Entire Executive of NAPTOSA
Leaders of fraternal teacher unions
Management & staff of Freedom Park
Ladies and gentlemen,
For me the launch of the Institute for Professional Development by the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa says indeed we’re free to work together as South Africans to solve our problems and challenges. There’s really no time for bickering and splitting hairs. We have a country to build, children to educate, and an economy to rekindle.
That’s why I’m excited as a citizen, a teacher, a parent, a patriot and a Basic Education Minister to have been invited and asked to say something. It is an honour to be accorded such an opportunity to throw in a few words about our collective destiny in the Park where it is located Isivivane.
The launch of the Institute for Professional Development is symbolic such that it sends a very powerful message to our people and the international community. It says on the eve of celebrations of 20 years of freedom NAPTOSA is contributing to nation-building and is choosing to do so at Freedom Park.
This hallowed Park stands as a monument to our democracy that was founded on the values of human dignity, rights and freedom. It serves as a symbol of the tortuous journey to and the sacrifices made for freedom (www.freedompark.co.za).
To seal permanently the gateway back to that tortuous struggle against inequality, racial disharmony and conflict, we must teach the youth to defend the Constitution and to value our hard-fought democracy whose monument is this sacred Park.
It follows that professional development is such an essential element. Without it there cannot be educator excellence.
The many heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives during the tortuous journey had incorporated into their scroll of freedom and rights the demand that the doors of learning and culture shall be opened.
Across disparate models and systems of education, from ancient times to the present, the teacher has always occupied a central role. A well-trained, quality teacher is always an asset.
Accordingly, launching the NAPTOSA Institute is yet another milestone in the history and development of an excellent educator in democratic South Africa.
And to do so at the serene environment of the Freedom Park Sanctuary underlines further the importance of this event and the Institute it formally launches.
This says working together we can deliver in every school and every classroom an excellent educator well conversant with the subject content and how to present it, the pedagogy thereof.
I have looked at the programmes offered by the NAPTOSA Institute for Professional Development in the third term of 2013, for teachers in various provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the North West. Very impressive! They are directed strategically at the areas that we deem to be priorities for the agenda of education reform.
NAPTOSA’ grade-specific workshops target the Foundation Phase Home Language and the First Additional Language and the Foundation Phase Mathematics, covering critical areas like teaching handwriting, reading, classroom management and time allocation of a maths lesson.
Evidence points to the importance of building a solid educational foundation through among other things a deliberate focus on honing these critical skills in the early years of learning.
Such an emphasis we saw in the last results of our newly introduced Annual National Assessments, in the 2012 national report of the National Education Evaluation & Development Unit, NEEDU, as well as in other local and international studies.
And so, your work, and in particular this strategic initiative, is welcomed as being highly valuable. This could be the reason why we had to congratulate you in The Sanctuary that is usually reserved for award ceremonies.
As I’ve said before, in different platforms, South Africa continues to grapple with formidable challenges associated with the quality of teaching. We know that this is a very serious matter with a plethora of research studies pointing to the impact of the quality of teachers on the quality of education.
This we must emphasize. The quality of our education system relies heavily on the capacity of our teachers to deliver the curriculum. The 2007 McKinsey and Company report says this even more eloquent when it states that “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”.
By affording professional development to educators we can provide quality education to millions of schoolchildren who must learn and develop into staunch defenders and upholders of the values and ethics in the democratic Constitution.
I trust that the NAPTOSA Institute for Professional Development will play its rightful role in the whole matter of improving teacher quality for a quality education system.
Indeed it has the capacity to do so. Admirably as we launch this institute NAPTOSA has contributed significantly in the training and development of teachers.
NAPTOSA has already trained 4 458 teachers in the last financial period alone within the framework of the Teacher Union Collaboration.
The theme of “Professional development an essential element of educator excellence” neatly captures what needs to be done better to achieve educator excellence.
Developing teachers demands a rational process wherein leaders, among other stakeholders, play a critical role, to maximise prospects for success.
District officials, school leaders, teacher unions, all have a vital role to play in promoting the culture and quality of professional teaching.
As a Department, together with teacher unions, we have come to acknowledge that we cannot expect learners to change the way they perform if teachers do what they have always done.
As Albert Einstein has rightly said: “You can’t keep doing the same thing every day and expect different results.”
If the goal of education is to improve learner performance through changes in teaching practice, and if changes in teaching practice are to result from quality professional development, then maybe we should pose this question:
‘What are the most important ingredients of professional development?’
Without a direct response to this fundamental question, allow me to pose a challenge to all of us to reflect critically on areas that we feel are crucial for professional development.
I think first and foremost would be the quality of programmes for professional development and the contexts within which programmes are being delivered.
But collaboration and collective ownership of these processes are very key.
The bold step that NAPTOSA has taken in establishing this Institute serves to stress the need for all of us to take quality education and teacher development to another level.
This initiative marks another practical and concrete implementation of the Integrated Strategic Framework for Teacher Education and Development.
The Integrated Strategic Framework says we must broaden access to quality teacher education and development opportunities for prospective and practicing teachers.
The Framework demands substantial involvement of teachers, their organizations and other role-players in teacher development.
It is in this context that our collaboration with teacher unions plays such a significant role in strengthening the delivery capacity for teacher development.
We have agreed as education partners and stakeholders on the importance of professional learning communities. Such agreement we see in the Integrated Strategic Framework for Teacher Education and Development.
We have agreed that such professional learning communities would enhance support for teachers in specific areas of curriculum delivery.
I trust that NAPTOSA Institute will work closely with our Department in driving the establishment of these professional learning communities in every level of the education system and in ensuring that they are fully and properly functional.
The Department of Basic Education is prepared and ready to work with teacher union institutes and Provincial Education Departments collaboratively to ensure that programmes for professional development complement each other for better results and importantly, for the development of a better teacher.
NAPTOSA has shown that it is up to the challenge. The Institute demonstrates NAPTOSA’s commitment to educator excellence, both in theory and practice.
South Africa is proud to have teacher-driven institutes for professional development originated by SAOU, SADTU and NAPTOSA. This is the spirit of the founders of our democracy who in the first decade of freedom espoused the view born of struggle that development and change can best come from people-driven initiatives.
This is the spirit we have preserved when we called upon all our people to work together to do more to make education a top priority for the democratic nation.
This is the spirit that informs the strategic imperative in the National Development Plan that the interests of all stakeholders should be aligned to support the common goal of achieving good educational outcomes that are responsive to community needs and economic development.
This is the very spirit that informed the conception and launch of the National Education Collaboration Trust and its Council.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the leadership and members of NAPTOSA for supporting the education collaboration framework whose key priorities include the professionalization of the teaching service.
Working together we can do more to improve the quality of education.
The NAPTOSA Institute will indeed raise the levels of teacher morale and skills development while boasting the movement for professionalization of the noble calling – teaching.
We like to see teachers being excited about learning on a life-long basis, being on time, teaching and improving the quality of learning in their schools. You’ve brought us closer to this goal.
Lastly, we welcome and value the role of NAPTOSA in education. Your partnership has really enriched government’s endeavour to get to the root causes of our educational challenges, attaining educator excellence being one of them.
Indeed we have climbed a hill with the establishment of the NAPTOSA Institute for Professional Development. But “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”(former President Nelson Mandela).
And so, I wish you all the success in the work of the Institute!