18 May 2009
Teachers and teacher unions have nothing to fear from the NEEDU (National Education Evaluation and Development Unit) Report. The proposals provide for an evaluation unit, whose main purpose is to undertake research and make recommendations to the Minister, and which would operate as a massive parastatal consultancy with little direct responsibility for practical implementation of anything.
Teachers and educationalists should however be concerned by the following:
The proposed Unit adds yet another layer of bureaucracy for teachers and schools to cope with. Increased monitoring and inspections - if not linked to a positive programme of teacher development - will lead to further demoralisation of the profession;
It represents a massive diversion of scarce educational resources - proposing an annual budget of close to half a billion rand and a high-calibre professional workforce approaching 1,000.
The proposals take us back to the old forms of duplication, with multiple agencies evaluating the same things for different purposes.
We also have to ask the question: Do the recommendations measure up to the task set by Polokwane Resolution number 32 - which called for: "The establishment of a national education evaluation and development unit for purposes of monitoring, evaluation and support." We would contend that there is little in the recommendations to take forward the quest for teacher development and support.
The report and proposal does not begin to address the underlying socio-economic conditions which fuel poor performance. The Report is concerned with measuring outputs, rather than improving inputs into the teaching and learning system. Our fear is that teachers will be cast as scapegoats once again.
Clearly the main concern of the Report is with monitoring and evaluation to hold the teachers to account. Development must take place elsewhere.
Not surprisingly, the NEEDU Committee is unable to fully comprehend the view from the side of the teachers, and the deep frustration felt by the failure to deliver teacher development in tandem with evaluation. This has a long history.
The Developmental Appraisal System (DAS), agreed by all parties to the ELRC (Education Labour Relations Council) some ten years ago, was premised on the acceptance that educators must be accountable for the quality of their work and should present themselves for regular appraisal. This was conceived as a developmental process: educators weaknesses would be identified and addressed through mentoring and training. This made sense given the unequal and often inadequate nature of teacher training in the previous era.
The Department was unable to deliver on DAS, citing lack of resources.
The demise of DAS was also hastened by the import of new managerial notions of monitoring and evaluation, increasingly punitive and with minimal developmental content for teachers. Whole School Evaluation and later performance management were met with suspicion at best, and often outright resistance.
Next came IQMS (Integrated Quality Management System). As the name implied, IQMS sought to integrate the developmental aspects of DAS with the incentives-based model of the new managerialism.
Whilst the unions secured buy-in from the majority of members, many of the provincial departments of education were unable to deliver in terms of training and implementation of the new IQMS. Teacher development again fell by the wayside.
The NEEDU recommendations - largely based on the British model and reviled by teachers in the UK - continue to side-line teacher development, carrying on the tradition of the last ten years. There is no indication of how the work of NEEDU would contribute to development and support for teachers.
There is also an issue of process here. Any attempt to impose yet another inspection agency on teachers without their buy-in is likely to have limited positive impact.
On a positive note: the Teacher Development Summit at the end of June, planned by the Department of Education, teacher unions and other major role players, provides the first real opportunity to address the teacher development deficit. The summit is being held with the express objective of "facilitating system-wide teacher development that will lead to sustainable improvement in the quality of teaching and learning in the classrooms and schools."
As SADTU we take the view that well-trained and motivated teachers are key to quality education. Evaluation and appraisal play an important role in improving school quality, but must work hand in hand with systems of teacher development and support.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
Thobile Ntola, President 079 491 3258
Mugwena Maluleke, Deputy General Secretary 082 783 2968
Jon Lewis, Media Officer 082 567 5628