President of SAPA, Mrs Alta van Heerden
Reps. of the African Confederation of Principals
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you this afternoon. Your Annual National Conference this year happens at a very critical time when school management, good governance and ethics of professionalism have come under severe strain.
The calling into question of the passion for teaching, no doubt, has been deepened by the recent industrial action of teachers as part of the national strike of public servants.
How the strike was conducted and the ethics of combat characterising it, must have clearly complicated your work and management role at a time when all our efforts are supposed to be directed at rounding-off the year and the final exams.
It must be a relief that as we are gathered here today to consider critical transformations in education, the strike has been suspended. This creates a platform to start implementing our recovery plans and rebuilding a healthy culture of schooling. Undoubtedly, this is not to be an easy task. A casual glance at the public discourse at this juncture points to a likely erosion of respect for the teaching profession.
The dignity of this profession, educational renewal and the broader transformation of the South African state should necessarily be on your minds in these two days as you consider the political will to transform; quality teaching for the 21st Century; issues of literacy and the dynamics of leadership in and for a developmental state.
We rely on you, believing strongly that school principals are the primary and key drivers of education transformation at and in the school. We are convinced that “a school where learners learn and there is a sense of harmony is often a school with an outstanding school principal” (Action Plan 2014). Your strategic leadership is therefore a requirement for working schools.
I have been specifically asked to respond to the question: Is there the political will in the ruling party today to make the critical transformations necessary to meet the demands of a 21st Century developing country? This is the right platform also to share with you developments around the curriculum and our plans going-forward.
My answer is a clear YES, in bold letters. You would be aware that in its 2009 Election Manifesto and at its 52nd National Conference, the ruling party reaffirmed its commitment to education as a national priority.
The ANC’s Election Manifesto reiterated the people’s commitment to expanding access to education in the true spirit of the education clause of the Freedom Charter – “The doors of learning and cultures shall be opened!”
We look at education as a means of promoting good citizenship and a tool for preparing our people for the needs of a modern economy and a democratic society. Through education, our people can be empowered better to escape poverty and underdevelopment.
To realise our developmental goals, the ANC-led government made its stance very clear on the need to improve the quality of education. We have committed to a range of deliverables, including:
- Democratic school governance, entailing working together with educators, learners, parents, school governing bodies and other stakeholders;
- Liberating South Africa from the shackles of illiteracy, by 2014, through, inter alia, Kha ri Gude, our mass literacy campaign;
- Introducing a sustainable early childhood education system, to give children a head start on numeracy and literacy;
- Training and employing around 15,000 trainers per annum and strengthening support for pre-schools in rural villages and urban centres;
- Improving performance in mathematics, science, technology and language development; and
- Extending school feeding schemes to relevant high schools and improving the implementation of the feeding scheme in primary schools.
You would know that we have fulfilled the promise of expanding access to primary education and have thus ensured our country delivers on the Education For All goals and on the relevant Millennium Development Goals.
The Quality Teaching and Learning Campaign is one of the conscious attempts on the part of the democratic government to enlist the support of all stakeholders in improving the quality of education and learning outcomes. Education, as I have said before, is and must be treated as a societal issue.
The ruling party has made huge strides in transforming the education system, legislatively and otherwise, and I must say, in a relatively short space of time, and continues to do so.
We have also developed a comprehensive action plan for the education sector, Action Plan 2014: towards the realization of schooling 2025, effectively and efficiently to address those areas impacting negatively on schooling in South Africa.
The Action Plan also addresses the critical issue of teacher development and training. it speaks to the need to “improve the professionalism, teaching skills, subject knowledge and computer literacy of teachers throughout their entire careers.”
Many of you were involved in the National Teacher Development Stakeholder process. You will know that the Department of Higher Education and Training is addressing teacher education in PRESET, whereas we are 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. Specific recommendations for the training of principals and school management teams include:
- The enhancement of skills and competencies;
- The improvement of 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 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 is our considered view that both principals and teachers require improved subject knowledge.
As managers, and with the school management teams, 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.
With regard to refining and repackaging the curriculum, you would have noted that on 3 September (2010) 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 of 1996 and the South African Schools Act of 1996.
They are available for public comment. As you know, from January 2011, English as a First Additional Language will be introduced as a fourth subject in Grade 1. I must allay fears that we are abandoning our commitment to mother tongue instruction. Far from it. 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. I urge you to encourage teachers to look at the curricula and let us know what they think.
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 assessment less cumbersome.
The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements embody these recommendations, spelling out clearly the number and relative weighting of continuous and formal assessment 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.
Changes in the Foundation Phase will be implemented in 2011, and in Grades 4 to 12 in 2012. 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 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 and with what. This will in turn help schools to work on areas of weakness and districts to plan interventions to support these.
We are developing workbooks, in line with the CAPS documents, in literacy and numeracy for Grades 1-6. We remain cognizant of the fact that workbooks do not replace textbooks and other resources. They are additional to them.
Our implementation challenges will not go away with the introduction of the CAPS documents. Thus, there is a need for ongoing research and development, to support implementation. Going-forward, we will prepare the system for these adjustments and build supporting structures and processes to ensure that we implement properly and effectively.
Once again, I want to thank SAPA for the role it has played over time in promoting and enhancing educational leadership and effective school management teams. Our officials have kept me abreast of developments at the quarterly meetings held with your Association.
We pay tribute to SAPA for its work in supporting the national drive for improving the quality of learning and of teaching. I concede, much needs to be done, but contrary to belief in some quarters, we are definitely on course.
I don’t agree with the view that education is “very likely the greatest single failure of the new South Africa” as Mr FW de Klerk has alleged at the Principals’ Symposium of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie.
This is way too far from the truth, unless of course we are saying all of you here, including SAPA, have failed this country and that all of us here have done nothing since 1994 to ‘put our souls’ in the education of our children. We cannot turn a blind eye to the damage wrought in education in this country, over decades, by erstwhile apartheid policies.
Yes, we are still battling with issues of quality and learning outcomes as expressed by Grade 12 results and several studies. But we have made serious inroads in many areas, including deracialising schools and integrating the public education system.
Also, despite its shortcomings, as Dr Jane Hofmeyr, Chief Executive of the Independent Schools Association of SA, has correctly pointed out, “OBE changed the paradigm of the national curriculum...” (Business Day, 2 September 2010) largely in the public schooling system.
Our history dictated a necessary and logical move towards an alternative values-based education system, and we are not apologetic about it, neither are we regretting the decision to bury bantu education deep in the dustbin of history. Dr Hofmeyr reminds us that, I quote:
“As in all countries, curricula need continuing research, monitoring, and refining, as new issues arise, knowledge expands and needs change... In the modern world, no country can afford the curriculum stagnation we endured for decades under apartheid.”
Finally, we all have a critical task in our hands. As we said in the Education Roadmap, in 2008, South Africa’s skills agenda needs quality education.
I therefore call upon you to use this conference seriously to consider critical transformations required for us to have working schools and quality teaching. I call upon you to be strategic leaders focusing not only on your schools but on all schools in the country. Working together we can move teaching, learning and leading in a new and better direction.
I thank you.