Teacher Development: The Heartbeat of a Functioning School System
The President of SAPA, Mr Marius Ehrenreich;
Executive Members of SAPA;
Departmental officials from national and provincial offices;
Principals and Deputy Principals;
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me a great pleasure to officially welcome delegates to this important conference of principals.
World Teachers’ Day
My address today coincides with the worldwide celebration of the World Teachers’ Day. On behalf of the Basic Education Department and Government as a whole; we would love to wish you the best World Teachers’ Day ever. We thank you for your unrelenting efforts and sacrifice to better the lives of our learners. We acknowledge your dedication and selfless service to the betterment of our country. Under the theme “Invest in our Teachers, Invest in our Future”, we would like to re-emphasis our commitment as a Department to the continuous professional development of our teachers. Teachers are indeed a guiding light for the nation.
Importance of Principals in our System
Principals in our education system are a vital cog that holds the system together. Leadership of our schools are bestowed upon principals and School Governing Bodies. For the system to operate at an optimum level, it’s important for principals to play their role as managers and leaders of various schools. In exercising their power, principals must understand that leadership is inherently problematic because it calls for consistency and taking unpopular decisions. You need to understand that being a principal is not popularity contest. It is all about excellence, good habits, hard work and sacrifice. Greek philosopher Aristotle once warned that: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Rollout
Programme Director; I am happy to report that the basic education sector is in a great shape. We have entered an era of ‘Business Unusual.’ In this era, radical transformation of basic education sector is not a song but a reality.
The Council of Education Ministers’ (CEM) has resolved that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is to be one of key priorities for the sector to act as an anchor for the radical transformation of the basic education. We have come to the determination within the sector that ICT is crucial to improve the quality and efficiency of the system from a number of aspects including administration, e-learning and teacher training. The ICT rollout to succeed requires an interdepartmental approach looking at various issues of connectivity, broadband, devices, electricity, and budget amongst others. I am happy to report that the Presidency is leading the ICT revolution in our sector through its Operation Phakisa.
Virtual ICT School
In this ICT space, we have already launched a virtual school, a first for South Africa. The UKUFUNDA Virtual School was launched in September this year. The school offers a wide range of free and open Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) aligned learning resources that can be accessed on more than 8000 mobile devices - from low-end mobile phones to high-end smart phones and tablets. It offers access to tutors, counsellors, mentors, coaches, and librarians. It is more like having a virtual school in your pocket.
It is designed to enable Teacher Centre Managers’ to build functional, vibrant Teacher Centres’ that can act as hubs for teacher professional development and support
It is also designed to support teachers in the development of content knowledge, pedagogical skills, professional development and the growth of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
In this sense, the UKUFUNDA Virtual School is living expression of the call by the National Development Plan (NDP) to exploit the opportunities offered by ICT in support of quality learning and teaching.
Teacher Development is the heartbeat of a functioning school system. As a result therefore teacher development is one of the major focus areas in this current term of office. This will include various policy reviews including conditions of service, teacher recruitment, deployment, utilisation and development including their general professional development.
All of us involved in this sector know very well that in order for us to improve the quality of our education – classroom teaching must improve so that learners can receive quality knowledge at the requisite level. Equally, in-order to effectively deliver the curriculum it is crucial that we have the correct teacher, teaching the correct subject in front of the class.
To succeed in the area of teacher development, we had to determine the quality and quantity of existing skills in our sector hence we are rolling out the process of Teacher Profiling. This is important in-order to ensure that: “We have the Correct Teacher, Teaching the Correct Subject in the Correct Grade”.
The absence of teacher profiling in the past has compromised the ability of Provincial Education Departments (PED’s) to deploy teachers correctly; resulting in qualified teachers teaching subjects they are not qualified to teach. In a bid to correct the mismatch the process of profiling throughout the country to rectify this is underway. We are confident this process will be finalised by March next year.
Teacher Development Institutes
It is also pleasing to note that all Teacher Unions have successfully launched their own Teacher Development Institutes. These are important in increasing teachers’ confidence, content knowledge and general lifelong learning imperative. I had the privilege to officially unveil the NATU’s Teacher Development Institute. We also note that SADTU has launched its own learning Television Channel for teachers. All these developments are good for our sector.
Teacher Training Centres
I am happy to report that we now have 131 fully functioning Teacher Training Centres (including 40 supported by our generous partner Vodacom). We firmly hold a view that the classroom is a centre piece of learning and teaching. And, at the core of this learning and teaching is a competent and confident Teacher. Teachers are the backbone of any functional education system. It is within this context that we decided that the best way to deliver quality education was to continuously upgrade the content knowledge of our teachers. In August we held a successful Teacher Centre Management Training which empowered Teacher Centre Managers’ with requisite skills to manage centres successfully.
Subject Committees and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
In addition to the launch of Teacher Development Institutes, I am happy to report that we have also launched Subject Committees and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). These will provide a uniform mechanism for subject teachers and other subject specialists to contribute to the continuous process of curriculum development and effective curriculum implementation.
The Subject Committees are strong vehicles to promote discussion and inputs by subject specialists on curriculum policy development and implementation, and the proposed subject committee structures are well-defined and regulated at national, provincial and district levels.
The Subject Committees cater for all the bands in the schooling sector, viz. Early Childhood Development (ECD), General Education and Training (GET) and Further Education and Training (FET). The PLCs are slanted towards teacher professional development as articulated in the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development (ISPFTED)
PLCs as envisaged in ISPFTED are communities that provide the setting and necessary support for groups of classroom teachers, school managers and subject advisors to participate collectively in determining their own developmental trajectories, and to set up activities that will drive their development.
Curriculum & Norms & Standards for Key Priorities
Curriculum coverage remains the core business of everything we do in Education and therefore it is vitally important that we are all working together on the same page to deliver a quality curriculum both effectively as well as efficiently. For this reason the DBE is currently developing for the first time in the history of Basic Education in our country; Norms and Standards, and Business Processes and Sector Plans for Grade-specific curriculum management and support. This is to ensure that all the deliverables are executed in an efficient manner within the given time frames to ensure accountability throughout the sector. We are also immersed in the task of developing Norms and Standards in other key priority areas such as:
• Leadership and Governance
• Curriculum Implementation and Delivery
• Teacher Recruitment, Management, Support and Professional Development
• Provisioning of Learner Teacher Support Material
• Education Information Management
The Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSM)
As the education sector, there is a broad agreement that our short term goal as directed by the NDP is to ensure that: “Each child has a textbook per subject per grade”. A comprehensive plan for the material development, procurement, delivery and retrieval of textbooks and workbooks was presented before the Council of Education Ministers recently. It was noted that the new plan may see savings of up to 50 percent in the next three years within the existing three-year funding (MTEF) cycle. In this area, we are working with a range of partners in the non-profit sector, corporate players and other state entities. There was sufficient consensus that one core text book will be identified for each subject per grade and that a transversal tender will be negotiated to maximise on economies of scale.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am convinced that together we are indeed taking the Basic Education Sector Forward. We have the necessary political will, the largest numbers of warm bodies in the public sector, and the largest budget. I just cannot imagine how we can fail. In any event failure is not an option. I wish you success in your deliberations. I urge you to focus your attention on teacher development.
In conclusion let me share with you some exciting developments in our sector which includes the continuous digitalisation of our workbooks/textbooks, imminent launch of the DBE iCloud and DBE Television Channel in 2015.
I thank you.