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Address at the Canada-South Africa teacher development project conference,26 May 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches


Address by the Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, MP, at the Canada-South Africa teacher development project conference, Kopanong Conference Centre, Benoni

26 May 2005

Your Excellency, the Canadian High Commissioner, Ms Sandelle Scrimshaw, Project managers and coordinators, principals, teachers, all other honoured delegates and guests, ladies and gentlemen – good evening!

It is pleasure to address this conference of the Canada-South Africa Teacher Development Project.

As a nation, we have set ourselves ambitious transformation goals in education generally and teacher education in particular.

And in order to respond effectively and efficiently we have worked with our international partners to assist us improve, strengthen and deepen our efforts.

The main goal of the project is to improve the quality of education in South Africa by strengthening teacher professional development and support.

The project has supported the national department of education’s coordination of in-service training policies and procedures. It has also strengthened the capacity of provincial departments of education in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State - and specific districts within these provinces - to plan, implement, and manage high standard in-service programming.

Our partnership has sharpened our understanding of teacher training. It has reinforced our commitment to our teachers – both their initial preparation and their continuing professional development. And it has confirmed that teachers are the heart of our education system and our key agents of change and transformation.

We are in the process of finalising a coherent national teacher education and development strategy in the form of a national framework for teacher education, accompanied by a realistic implementation plan.

The strategy will ensure that teacher training is comprehensive, transformed and sustainable. It will support us to:
recruit more teachers
produce more teachers for mathematics and science
retain teachers for longer within the profession
support teachers in their professional practice.

Recently there has been a focus on the supply of teachers, following the release of the Education Labour Relations Council research study undertaken by the Human Sciences Research Council.

The main findings of the report have undoubtedly identified important issues, but it has not fully addressed several core issues relevant to the larger picture of supply and demand.

The larger picture reveals an over-supply of teachers in the country, and a very low actual attrition rate. Less than 5% of teachers actually leave in any one year - a rate of natural attrition that falls well below the UK, for example, which is at 12%, and most other countries which are above 10%.

The Education Labour Relations Council study looked at a range of factors affecting teacher supply and demand, including the impact of HIV and AIDS. In regard to the latter, it has been an extremely valuable study, and both unions and the department of education are jointly discussing this aspect with a view to intervening in strategic ways.

Regrettably, this study did not give enough attention to the demand side. There is a widespread belief that we are in a demand crisis because we are training too few and losing too many to overseas recruitment.

We accept that teachers (especially English-speaking teachers) are part of a highly mobile international workforce, and that there is significant migration of teachers around the world – including between countries of the South and in the developing world.

The Seychelles does not train any teachers, and simply recruits from Kenya; Botswana apparently recruits teachers from British Guiana in the West Indies.

We have a large number of expatriate teachers working in our schools – mostly from India and other African countries.

This phenomenon is a positive one, provided it is managed, and does not involve large scale, systematic “poaching” efforts.

Every country has the responsibility to train sufficient teachers for its education system, and international recruitment should really be limited to address temporary shortages or to meet needs in specialised areas of study.

South Africa may itself be in a position where we will be recruiting foreign teachers, and we already have extensive interest from teachers in SADC countries (especially Zimbabwe), from the Maldives, and from India.

Although there are at any one time about 5 000 South Africans teaching in Britain, over 90% of these teachers intend to return to the country after their two years abroad. In almost every case, they come back as better, more experienced teachers.

Some, after teaching in UK inner city schools, express great delight at returning to the order and discipline of our schools!

Therefore, as long as we have a surplus of teachers, we will not discourage the international mobility of teachers, as we benefit from this exposure to other education environments. We do have in place a protocol that binds Commonwealth countries, and this enables us to monitor the numbers leaving and returning.

The department of education has recently invited qualified teachers who are looking for employment to register with us, and to date over 11 000 have done so – confirming the fact that we do indeed have a substantial pool of unemployed and qualified teachers.

This is further confirmed at school and provincial level, where schools do not experience difficulties in attracting applicants for any advertised teaching post.

There may be real questions about the quality of the training, and the area of specialisation, but in purely quantitative terms we do have enough teachers in this country, at least in the short term.

The longer-term prognosis is less comforting, recognising that we are training fewer teachers than leave the profession each year.

So there is no room for complacency.
This concern is the reason we have taken a number of steps to make the profession more attractive, and the evidence from the Education Deans’ Forum is that we are succeeding. Whereas universities graduated 5 000 new teachers in 2003, in 2004 they produced over 9 000 – a dramatic improvement that bodes well for the future, and will enable us to revitalise the profession, and make teaching a “first choice” career for our brightest and best matriculants.

We have taken the following steps to help us in achieving this goal.

First, we have designed a new teacher career path structure that has been exceptionally well received by the profession. School-based posts of senior teacher and education specialist have been created, which will allow for much greater promotion opportunities. In addition, an entirely new career path in “learning and teaching” will allow a teacher to progress to the most senior levels, equivalent to a school principal, without ever leaving the classroom, and the next step would be into the subject advisory services.

This will suit those teachers who are passionate about their subjects, and show real leadership in this regard, but who resist any kind of management or administrative position. Such teachers would however play a mentoring role in the induction of new recruits, and in supporting other teachers of the subject.

Second, the minister of finance recently allocated R4.2 billion over the next three years to improve the service conditions of teachers. Some of this money will go into recruiting scarce skills into the profession, such as the appointment of 400 new maths and science teachers in the specialised dinaledi schools, and also to ensure we get well-qualified teachers in some of our poorer urban and rural schools.

The money will also be used to pay additional rewards for our top-performing teachers, over and above the current 1% payable for “satisfactory” service.

Some of the money will be used to provide career path benefits to ordinary teachers by creating a longer salary scale, up to level 9 of the public service. This will allow a classroom teacher to progress to higher salary levels, where they would be able to earn up to R155 000 per annum.

All of these are aimed at making the profession more attractive, and as the word gets out, we are seeing much greater interest. This forces us to respond to the costs of teacher training, which currently preclude many poorer students, since we cannot allow poverty to be a factor in determining who becomes a teacher.

Third, in the past few years the department has allocated and ring-fenced a substantial portion of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme that has supported a number of trainee teachers. Regrettably, this amount (R50 million per year) has not been fully utilised, and there is an acknowledged need to review this approach to the funding of student teachers.

One option that is promoted and increasingly being used is the payment of “full-cost” bursaries to trainee teachers by a provincial education department in return for a service contract for an equivalent period. This enables a department to target its support to students in particular fields, like maths and science, and to safely plan for the future. As needs arise, provinces will increase the number of bursaries to meet the demands.

Fourth, learnerships are also being pursued in the education sector, with the ETDP SETA supporting some 880 “learner teachers”, of whom the first cohort will be graduating at the end of this year. These “learner teachers” are currently studying through a university, while employed in a school at rates determined by the minister of labour. This is a flexible and cost effective approach to teacher education, and can be used to address urgent needs, but the difficulties of quality assurance in this new mode of delivery require ongoing attention.

Finally, we must record the critical role of teachers themselves in defending and promoting the status and image of the profession. Teachers, individually and collectively, are the best advertisements for the profession, and what they do and say has a huge bearing on how the public views the profession.

We must appreciate the work done by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) in registering all teachers in public and independent schools, and bringing them under the authority of a code of professional ethics.

Through this the Council has subjected teachers to a rigorous peer review process, and taken strong action against the few teachers who have transgressed the code and brought the profession into disrepute. I invite parents, pupils and other teachers to ensure that all cases of unprofessional conduct are reported to the Council, so that they can act on these. The profession wants to remain proud, and is taking active steps to regulate the behaviour of its members.

There are many challenges relevant to quality teaching and learning that require action. None suggest a crisis in teaching. Our unions may need to give greater attention to professional aspects of teaching.

The ongoing task of completing curriculum transformation poses a wide range of tasks for teachers. Teachers have a critical role in success.

Good teachers make successful schools. This partnership assists South Africa in creating successful teachers.

Many teachers may be frustrated by the changes taking place, and how they are taking place, and we appeal to them to stay the course.

I do not believe teachers are demoralised - in fact, I know them as some of the most dedicated and committed people, working courageously with their colleagues and with communities to serve our children.

We are working to ensure teachers are afforded the rewards and the dignity they deserve; we call upon our brightest and best youngsters to consider working in the broad field of education. Nothing can be more fulfilling than helping the next generation to find their place in society.

Thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 631

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