Cde Magope Maphila – President
Cde Mugwena Maluleke – General Secretary
Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali – COSATU General Secretary
Cde Blade Nzimande – SACP General Secretary /DHET Minister
Members of the SADTU National Executive Committee
Comrades and Compatriots
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great honour and privilege to be here this afternoon and be part of the SADTU National General Council session, an important revolutionary gathering to make critical decisions about the fate of the basic education sector in between national congresses. It is also with pleasure that I wish to join the Comrade Chairperson in welcoming you all to this auspicious occasion. Let me register my sincere appreciation to all of you for attending this session of the NGC.
I have been asked to deliver a message of support focussing entirely on the role of professional capital in the developmental state.
My take on the role of professionals in a developmental state is anchored on the UN’s Report (2005) which concluded that: “no matter how organised and constitutional a government is, it would not get very far in the absence of public administration system capable of translating its broad political intentions, enforcing its laws and delivering services needed by the people. Without a professionally competent public administration, the state cannot count on making those things happen which it wants to see happen or on pre-empting undesirable developments.”
In this vein teachers are the heartbeat of a capable and professional public service. Through public schooling the State and teachers are the reservoirs of dreams and aspirations of millions of future citizens. If public schooling falters, it has a domino effect on the whole socio-economic development of a country. Thus, the call for a professional public service in general and amongst teachers in particular is long overdue. We should collectively take a leaf out of the book of our forebears.
Similarly, According to the 2015 UNESCO Report dubbed ‘Rethinking Education. Towards a global common good’, education is described as key to the global integrated framework of sustainable development goals. The report insists that Education is at the heart of our efforts both to adapt to change and to transform the world within which we live. A quality basic education is the necessary foundation for learning throughout life in a complex and rapidly changing world.
The key question that we are all grappling with is how do we improve the quality of our education system in a meaningful way? How do we ensure that improvement of our education system does not only result in the improvement of learning outcomes, but also translates into the development of individuals who can use their knowledge and skills to transform themselves and the society they live in? The achievement of the goals of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA-2063), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as well as the National Development Plan (NDP) relies on the ability of the education systems of the world to produce learners who are not only competent and knowledgeable, but also leaners that are skilled and innovative.
If we know the kind of learners that we want, that must be produced by our education system, it is important that we also look at how we produce these kinds of learners. We cannot ignore the kind of teachers we produce since they will be instrumental in producing the kind of learners we want. This brings into sharp focus the issue of teachers, teaching and the teaching profession.
Professionalization of the teaching profession
One of the key elements of improving the quality of our education system is to ensure that the teaching profession is fully professionalised. One of the UNESCO/ILO recommendations on the status of teachers in 1966 was that teaching should be regarded as a profession. Our own NDP also emphasizes on the need for education and teaching to be a highly valued profession. This means that teachers themselves should be regarded as professionals, and should behave and be treated as such. The theme of the conference talks about the notion of a professional capital. Michael Fullam and Andy Hargreaves describe capital as something that adds value to net worth. The basic question therefore is how do we ensure that we make the correct investment in our education system such that the return on that investment will improve our worth as a country in terms of our quality of life?
Fullam and Hargreaves talk about three forms of capital in education:
Human Capital, Social Capital and Decisional Capital.
Human Capital is about the individual teachers, their qualifications as well as their competencies. It is common knowledge that the majority of the schools in our country are public schools, which means that the role of the state in improving the quality of education offered in these schools is fundamental. There is no doubt that the government is playing a leading role in the recruitment and training of our teachers. Government is making funding available, through Fundza Lushaka Bursary scheme and other bursary programs in Provinces and government institutions to ensure that young and talented individuals are recruited into the teaching profession. Government is playing a leading role in ensuring that our teachers are professionally qualified.
The collaboration between Department of Basic Education as well as the Department of Higher Education and training is being strengthened to ensure that teachers that are produced are able to adapt to the situation in our schools. The government has also facilitated the establishment of the South Africa Council for Educators (SACE) which has the responsibility to regulate the teaching profession and ensure that it is fully professionalised. Government is working with SACE to ensure that teachers engage in on-going professional development through the CPTD Management System. It is through this system that we continue to invest in our teachers and make sure that we improve their levels of competence. Government is also strengthening institutions to support teachers in their professional development. In this regard, we are mobilizing the private sector to support the establishment and resourcing of Teacher Development Institutes and Teacher Centres. Government if funding Teacher Unions as part of the Teacher Union Collaboration to ensure that we expand the opportunities of teachers to quality teacher development programmes.
Social Capital is about the work of teachers and their working environment, their ability to collaborate and share knowledge and skills. It is a known fact that our teachers are working in very challenging working environments, but they continue to do their best under those circumstances. One of the key challenges is the issue of high class sizes due to insufficient classrooms or number of teachers. A number of our teachers are exposed to multi-grade classrooms. These are challenges that government is continuing to address within the context of limited financial resources. Despite this challenge, government is continuing to deliver state of the art schools in rural areas. More teachers are being produced and send to rural areas and other areas of need in order to lessen the teacher shortage in those areas. Whilst a lot of progress is being recorded in improving the working conditions of teachers, the backlogs and the challenges are still enormous. Collaboration of teachers is also an area that is being promoted through Professional associations as well as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). The establishment of the Education Labour Relations Council, where formal engagements happen with teacher unions, is a positive development since teachers are involved through their representatives in shaping the policy discourse in our country. More still needs to be done to ensure that the arrangement of school timetables allows for more opportunities for both inter-school and intra-school collaboration.
Decisional Capital is about the ability of our system to allow teachers to make decisions and judgements about the work they do. Professor Linda Darling Hammond talks about two forms of accountability: Professional accountability and bureaucratic accountability. Our systems is characterised by bureaucratic accountability, where teachers are required to comply with guidelines and policies that are developed at various levels. What needs to be promoted more is professional accountability, where teachers are given more freedom to make decisions about how to teach effectively. It is clear that as our education system matures, the boundary needs to shift from bureaucratic accountability more towards professional accountability.
There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that systems that invest in both professional and social capital produce better quality learners than those that do not, with decisional capital being a key enabler. It is also evident that this kind of investment needs to be driven by the state, although the involvement of other partners is critical.
There is no doubt that our government is focusing in the right areas in order to improve the quality of our education system. The involvement of the state in regulating and driving education delivery is unquestionable. The recent results of SACMEQ and TIMMS are evident that our system is improving, but clearly there is a lot that still needs to be done. The fact that more learners are having access to higher education is a positive development. The introduction of the three streams model as well as the strengthening of the TVET sector will assist in diversifying the skills basket in our country, which will assist in diversifying the economic streams and provide more opportunities for the citizens of our country.
Finally, there is a bugbear in our efforts to capitalise on the professional dividend of our teachers. In fact there are two elephants in the room namely the violence in schools and teenage pregnancies. I am saddened by the increasing incidents of total lack of discipline in our schools. I am wondering at what point we must call these incidents a crises that requires concomitant action on our part. The classroom is meant to be a holy grail of teaching and learning yet it seems like it has been turned into a war zone.
We must as custodians of basic education in this country critically reflect on our response to these incidents. Is there a way for us to be proactive? What indeed needs to be done to nip this in the bud? The second issue as I said earlier is the high rate of teenage pregnancies. We must ramp up our psychosocial services in all our schools as a priority. The psychosocial and economic realities of South Africa merit schools as valuable centres of support, with ever-increasing demands on educators. These include high rates of unemployment and poverty; high rates of HIV and tuberculosis infection; crime; orphan-hood; violence and child abuse.
I again appeal to all NGC delegates to consider this matter as an apex priority. We cannot let slip the control of the classroom. It is the only thing we have to change the fortunes of children in our care. We must reclaim it; there are no two ways about it.
Ke A Leboga
I thank you.