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Address at the International Labour Organisation policy dialogue forum for the Southern African Development Community, 6 December 2005, Minister Naled speeches


Address by the Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, MP, at the International Labour Organisation policy dialogue forum for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria

6 December 2005


All recent reports on Education for All indicate growth in education provision and significant challenges associated with this growth.

Education is a huge industry. There are over a billion students in the world today, half a billion are in secondary school. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimates that there are 88 million university students – double the number recorded in 1970. Almost all these students are in public institutions funded by government.

Clearly such numbers have profound implications for our nations, our economies and the workforce in the sector. There are currently over 54 million people in the teaching profession worldwide.

Expansion on such a massive scale deserves considered policy research and decision-making.

The growth occurred as a gradual expansion in the developed world after the First World War. So systems in countries of the North were able gradually to steer policy, as expanding access to primary education led to growth in the secondary sector and then growth at the tertiary level. For Africa the centre of expansion has been primary education for many decades and remains primary expansion in the context of Education for All.

In terms of the teacher corps primary school teachers outnumber secondary school teachers two to one. Little evidence is available on the competence levels of these teachers and their ability to offer quality opportunities for learning.

Education for All and former campaigns for the right to education have led to welcome growth in pupil enrolments, but as African Ministers of Education reported in Paris and China recently this growth in access is not accompanied by increased funding, better qualified teachers or adequate infrastructure and resources for learning.

In fact, as several ministers reported, while progress is being recorded, sub Saharan Africa lags behind all regions of the world in meeting Education for All objectives. The main factor is poverty. Associated reasons are poor policy development, a project approach to issues of rights and system constraints despite many decades of freedom.

Each of us knows what is wrong, what is not being done; Yet none of us has a clear sense as to exactly where we should look for solutions. The work being done through the study that forms the basis of this conference may offer insights into some of the responses to our challenges.

A great deal of research has been done on various educational issues, but we have not definitively examined the profession of teaching – its status, its ability to serve as a catalyst for Education for All, its status as a driver of national objectives and implications of such research for policy makers and planners.

All the countries involved in this project are keenly awaiting its findings. In South Africa there has been a great deal of public and research interest in the findings that have begun to emerge.

First, among these issues is the matter of teacher supply. Is there a looming shortage of teachers?

The recently completed Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) study of supply and demand indicates that we may have a shortage. They paint a gloomy picture. It tells us that we cannot rely on our pool of unemployed teachers, even in the short term. It reports that the 11 000 unemployed teachers on our books were trained before the new curriculum and that they would need significant retraining to enter the profession. Further, there are more teachers leaving the country than coming in and that this has been the pattern since 1999. The report estimates that if ratios of staff to pupil and enrolment remain the same in the short to medium term future we will need about 319 704 to 336 159 educators in 2008 (less than we have now). But then they factor in attrition (resignation, death and retirement) and calculate that we will be short of 15 000 teachers.

This is not a positive future scenario.

But the scenario is not yet convincing for us as policy makers.

Our own research in the Department has given us a different assessment of future demographic trends. While overall population growth over the 1995-2003 period has averaged 2.0 per cent per annum, the growth rate for 16 to 18 year olds was almost twice that at 3.7 per cent per annum. In contrast, population growth amongst seven to 15 year olds has been 1.2 per cent per annum. This has meant that the strong demand for secondary schools and Further Education and Training (FET) institutions will persist in the medium term, while strong growth in demand in the higher education sector is expected.

The relatively slow growth amongst younger age-groups means that demand will continue to grow at a slower rate once these individuals reach the FET and HE sectors and not that demand for education and training will decline.

These demographic changes have significant implications for our education planning, particularly for the training of teachers. What is clear is that we are not replacing teachers (the 5% or 17 000 we lose each year through attrition) with an equal number of new professionals, where they will be needed in the immediate future.

So, while there is no crisis at this time, urgent and decisive action on pre-service training is imperative.

The second issue relates to the kind of teachers we need. Here in South Africa, and in Africa we need more maths, science, commerce and technology professionals.

In South Africa very few pupils do well in these disciplines and those who do succeed have lucrative options in other fields of study. We need to attract these young people into education as a viable and attractive profession. To do that the conditions of service of teachers must improve, scarce skills must receive recognition and our systems must accelerate the success of learners in these non-traditional disciplines.

Some of our preliminary investigations suggest that we have many qualified unemployed graduates and thousands of vacant posts and yet the two do not ever come together. We do not know the fields of qualification of these unemployed hundreds nor why they are not taken up in a system that clearly needs them?

The third issue is the increasing femininisation of the profession and the unequal status of women teachers. The majority of primary school teachers are female and few of them advance to senior positions. Also, because these teachers often have few opportunities to attain further degrees, many do not get promotion opportunities and so remain under-qualified and rooted in traditional methodologies.

This situation has led to an undervaluing of primary level teaching and to the consequent underachievement and low morale we see in thousands of our primary schools.

The fourth issue is the poor quality of learning and teaching. Many colleagues can happily point to universal gross enrolment, open schools and textbook provision. But we also acknowledge the serious challenge of very poor learning outcomes. In the last few years we have published in South Africa two learning surveys that point to very serious inadequacy in achievement.

Any investigation into teachers and teaching in our region has to begin to tell us why children do not learn, why teachers cannot teach.

The recent reports on teacher supply and demand confirm some of these observations. They also alert us to the need to respond to the plight of rural educators and indicate that much more must be done on HIV and AIDS education for educators.

In closing, the core challenge suggested by all the studies thus far is that of restoring the professional status of teachers. We are working hard to do this in South Africa, because we recognise that without a committed, competent and adequately recognised core of teachers Education for All will not be a reality in the lives of Africa’s children.


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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 775

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