Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour officially to open the KwaZulu-Natal Annual Conference of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA).
The issues you have selected this year go to the very heart of the real challenges confronting the education system.
As you are aware, the theme of this conference is “The Winds of Change: Education Beyond 2010.” This theme says it cannot be business as usual. It speaks to our resolve to make a tangible impact on the lives of ordinary people.
Building on achievements in education, government aims in 2011 and beyond to ensure progressive realisation of universal schooling, improving quality education and eliminating disparities. This requires a renewal of the education system which we hope to achieve through the recently announced Action Plan 2014: towards the realization of schooling 2025.
As you know, government has made education its apex priority precisely because it is a means of promoting good citizenship and of preparing our people for the needs of a modern economy and a democratic society. Your theme – “The Winds of Change: Education Beyond 2010” – is therefore spot on.
Many of you will have been involved in the National Teacher Development Stakeholder process. You will be aware of the proposals that have emerged. You will know that the Department of Higher Education and Training is addressing teacher education in PRESET, whereas the Department of Basic Education is addressing issues in INSET.
One of the most important proposals of the Teacher Development Plan is recognition of the need to plan for differentiated development needs among districts, principals and teachers. The specific recommendations for the training of principals and school managements are:
- The enhancement of skills and competencies;
- The improvement of the recruitment and selection procedures;
- The induction of newly appointed principals;
- Professional preparation for principalship: and
- The enhancement of skills, attributes and competencies of deputies and middle managers.
The Department has initiated and piloted an Advanced Certificate in Education: School Leadership, to capacitate school managers. This programme has been designed to change and enhance the practice of school managers. It was recently evaluated by the Department and we will follow up on those recommendations.
We remain committed to democratic school governance and the conscious improvement of management capacity of school principals and their school management teams.
We believe introducing a national coaching and mentoring programme for principals and establishing professional learning communities, as recommended in the National Teacher Development plan, will go a long way in addressing current challenges around the quality of education.
If we intend principals to have specific targeted training, we also want the same for teachers. Both principals and teachers require improved subject knowledge. As managers, and with the SMTs, principals need to manage the education and development of teachers in a way that does not compromise our aim to have teachers in school, on time, teaching.
Linked to these interventions is a resolve to promote the status of teachers, employing more teachers and improving their development and training.
This is as an important aspect of our drive to ensure that quality teaching becomes the norm, rather than the exception.
But we also need to get a grip on the employment of principals. The relative roles of districts and SGBs in the employment of principals is something that is under consideration at the moment. We want to introduce changes that will make this process more responsive to the professional needs of the system.
Now to the subject you’ve all been waiting for, with bated breath: curriculum refinement and repackaging.
Last Friday, 3 September, we gazetted the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements developed for each subject listed in the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12, in terms of the National Education Policy Act and the South African Schools Act of 1996.
They are now available for public comment. We have published everything except the Foundation Phase, which will be available in two weeks’ time. We have also published Languages as Home and First Additional Language in English.
As you know, English as a First Additional Language will be introduced as a fourth subject in the Grade 1. This will be with effect from January 2011. It will also be for those schools that choose English as a first additional language.
But please let me allay any fears that this means we are abandoning our commitment to mother-tongue instruction. This is not the case.
The policy we are following is one widely practiced elsewhere: immersion. We believe that children can be immersed in more than one language from a young age.
Your first response will probably be: but what about the teachers? And you would be correct: if the teachers who are teaching it have not mastered it, then we will face challenges. For that reason, I believe that teacher education and development have a particular challenge in relation to languages, all languages. But it is one we must grasp NOW.
NAPTOSA has been present on the Ministerial Project Committee. I would like to take this opportunity to commend especially the work of Sue Muller, from NAPTOSA, who is on the Ministerial Project Committee helping to oversee the process. She has been meticulous in her manner of managing the science education curriculum and has been a valuable member of the team.
I would also like to urge you to encourage your teachers especially to look at the curricula and let us know what they think. But remember in your comments that they will be received by ordinary human beings and teachers like yourselves. They are likely to be more receptive if your own comments are realistic and framed in reasonable tones.
The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements, as you will see from the website, provide clear guidelines to teachers on what to teach and assess on a term-by-term basis. Content is more clearly delineated, and assessments less cumbersome.
Once again, I want to thank NAPTOSA for the role it has played over time in highlighting and pressing for the removal of the assessment burdens that teachers faced. You will all be aware that I took steps at the beginning of this year to reduce these.
The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements embody these recommendations. It spells out clearly and realistically the number and relative weighting of continuous and formal assessments per term and annually. Recording and reporting of results should also be less cumbersome as we are extending the codes for reporting used in grade 12 to all other grades. Assessment should be much less cumbersome and not difficult to understand or apply.
The CAPS documents are in line with two of our new initiatives: the Annual National Assessments (ANA) and the workbooks project.
All learners in public schools will write Annual National Assessment (ANA) tests in literacy/languages and numeracy/mathematics from 2011, in Grades 3, 6 and 9. The best use of ANA will be for diagnostic purposes: to identify which learners are struggling with what.
This will in turn help schools to work on areas of weakness and districts to plan interventions to support these.
Once all this is in place, it does not mean that all our problems will be solved. Assessment literacy is still a challenge among many of our teachers. I have been into schools and seen teachers ticking work, but NEVER providing any feedback to learners let alone conceptual feedback to help improve their work.
This can only come with support to teachers for improving their content knowledge. This content knowledge must include literacy in assessment for learning rather than to meet only reporting requirements.
Workbooks are also being developed in line with the CAPS documents. They are being developed in literacy and numeracy for Grades 1-6 and will be implemented in the lowest quintile schools. This is to ensure that the poorest children have something in front of them. Workbooks do not replace textbooks and other resources. They are additional to them.
Our view is that ongoing research on all available textbooks in the market is of the utmost importance. It cannot replace research that publishers and others such as academics themselves do. But it can inform our processes for determining selection criteria to ensure quality and improve logistics of delivery. This is why I am interested in setting up an LTSMs Institute.
But we do not have the luxury to wait for all these to be evaluated before we proceed. We will proceed with the workbooks. They follow our curriculum as contained in the CAPS documents and draw on best design practice.
To ensure that we are responsive to the needs of the teacher in the classroom and that we promote effective teaching, learning and assessment, a five-year plan has been put in place to manage immediate short term interventions, as well as longer-term plans. One of my major intentions is to introduce what we recommended as far back as 1994: a National Institute for Curriculum and Professional Development.
As mentioned above, I am also interested in establishing a Learning and Teaching Support Materials Institute, that may or may not be part of the National Institute for Curriculum and Professional Development. Our implementation challenges will not go away with the introduction of the CAPS documents. And we do need ongoing research and development to support and inform our implementation.
Over the last four months of 2010, and thereafter, we will prepare the system for these adjustments and build supporting structures and processes to ensure that we implement properly and effectively.
Changes in the Foundation Phase will be implemented in 2011, and in Grades 4 to 12 in 2012.
I have the commitment of all provincial Heads of Education and MECs. They have undertaken to support the National Implementation Plan.
Teachers should be aware of our plans as we have already issued two Curriculum Newsletters. It would strengthen our case if you were all to assist in disseminating this information.
In conclusion, I would like to invite you to use quality school management and quality teaching to help us “lay the groundwork for stronger growth going forward, and for growth that gives rise to more jobs” and a better life for all.
As you go into discussions, and beyond your two days here, consider as well these pertinent questions that will help us go forward:
- What is your view on the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements developed for each subject listed in the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12, that was gazetted last Friday?
- Given that there is consensus on the need for teacher development, how best can we approach it, for instance, without taking teachers out of the classroom?
- How do we source suitable pedagogical courses for teacher development? and
- How best can we recover lost time in the light of the public sector strike and the fact that some schools have not delivered, since January, on quality of teaching?
I look forward to robust debates on these questions and on other pertinent issues you have identified for discussion, including:
- Curriculum refinement and repackaging;
- Information Technology and the learning environment;
- Current deliberations in the Education Labour Relations Council; and
- The state of education in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Once again, I declare the NAPTOSA KZN Annual Conference officially open and wish you well in your deliberations.
I thank you.