Input by the General Secretary Cde Mungwena Maluleke on behalf of South African Democratic Teachers Union(SADTU) at the Teacher Development Integrated Strategy Launch

5 April 2011

"Together, taking responsibility for teacher education and development"

We have all had the experience of working towards a conference like the Teacher Development Summit, Round table - we go to the conference, we pass resolutions, and then ... nothing. We therefore have to commend the Department - working with teacher unions and other stakeholders - for carrying the process forward to the point where today we can launch an Integrated Strategic Plan for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa 2011 - 2025

Of course all processes must end in some kind of action. It is two years since the Summit and the priority now must be to accelerate the implementation process. During the Round Table as SADTU we said that the following must be prioritized:

  • Establishing teacher development institutes in all provinces as centres of training, development and support
  • Establishing a robust system of teacher development based on
    • An appropriate system of teacher appraisal to identify weaknesses, and
    • A system of support, training and mentoring to address those weaknesses

We stated that to achieve this we need to do the following:

  • Streamline and coordinate teacher development activities and structures from national, provincial and district levels down to the schools
  • Ensure sufficient resources. This starts by ensuring that the 90% of the 1 % skills levy which goes to provincial departments is used effectively for its intended purpose of skills development.

Let us remind ourselves why we embarked on this process around teacher development. We said that there were too many poorly trained teachers - through no fault of their own - who are not delivering quality teaching in the classroom - a vicious cycle leading to poor learning outcomes and demoralization.

We acknowledged that the South African teacher is a product of many streams of history and culture, representing the origins, ideological manipulation and social engineering objectives of reigning political victors at every historical phase of his/her development.

A research account about the South African teacher locates him/her at the centre of any nation-building endeavour undertaken during each of the socio-political development phases of South Africa. This therefore informed our mission to embark on this process around Teacher Development.

We stated clearly that what we want is to achieve a virtuous cycle:

  • This starts with the identification of teachers’ development needs to improve teaching in the classroom;
  • We then need to facilitate development opportunities for educators with the objective of improving teaching and hence improving learner outcomes;
  • This will improve the image of teachers and their own self-esteem - so that we start producing educators who take responsibility for their own professional development.

As we welcome the plan, we wish to remind all of us that the country has entered its seventeenth year of freedom and democracy with a strategic challenge of accelerating the human resource development assignment of the National Democratic Revolution. Slowly, the centrality of education in the growth and development of society is being foregrounded above all other important variables.

This is happening at a time when the exigencies of national cohesion, genuine democratisation as well as non-racialisation of society are receiving impetus and attention as key components of the NDR.

We wish to draw the attention of all stakeholders that the 1994 democratic breakthrough created for South Africa opportunities to;

  • establish organs of people`s power in all facets of society as part of actualising the Freedom Charters’ call of `THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN`
  • pursue an education provision trajectory that `OPENS THE DOORS OF LEARNING AND CULTURE` thus creating a society that believes in the call for a better life for all.
  • strengthen the principle that `South Africa belongs to all who live in it` as a strategic guideline for the entire education occurrence for learners and teachers alike.
  • build democracy, a culture of human rights and a value system based on human solidarity.
  • thrust into the international arena a human development paradigm that advances social equity and the transformation of humanity in its totality

Flowing from this breakthrough we wish to state the following about the plan:

  • For the first time in South Africa, a holistic view to teacher development is being taken following the post - teacher development summit processes. We hope that the integrated plan will address the long term needs of teachers in the system;
  • We appreciate the plan’s intentions to address both pre-service and in-service needs. Recognising teaching as a graduate profession is a step in the right direction as demonstrated by international practice;
  • In service training is our greatest challenge because it has to deal with numerous changes in the education system. Firstly, teachers receive their qualifications from different universities and colleges often motivated for different educational purposes and by different philosophical positions in education, e.g. mathematics and science were not emphasized in traditional black colleges.
  • Further, the cognitive demand for these courses were also limited;
  • We are also hoping that the integrated plan will enable the education system to introduce innovative and creative ideas in teaching with the fast paced changes in education (introduction of information and communication technology), the integrated plan will enable us to take measures to re - skill teachers;
  • While we applaud the introduction of the integrated plan, it is essential that the plan addresses areas of quality recruitment of aspiring teachers, the quality preparation of these teachers and the quality support of these teachers when they start teaching;
  • Mentoring and induction programmes have been shown to have a positive impact on teaching and learning and we are pleased that these components have been included in the integrated plan. Teachers once they start teaching are often left to find their own way in the teaching and learning situation and this is an undesirable situation. Mentoring and induction programmes can assist in mitigating the impact of this;
  • There is a lot of work that needs to be done on in - service training as this is our greatest challenge. While the plan talks about introducing institutes for professional development for in - service teachers, there are concerns about the pace at which these institutes will be established and the pace at which programmes will be introduced because this will depend on provinces, nevertheless the institutional arrangements for in - service training is a progressive idea, knowing that in - service training is also supported at the level of higher education institutions;
  • As much as higher education institutions are responsible for teacher preparation, more needs to be done to ensure that all universities produce similar quality teachers and higher education institutions should work in that direction;
  • The targeted interventions for Principals, Deputy Principals, HODs and teachers of lower performing schools are also welcomed. The need to address school development needs is essential for better quality teaching and learning and better learner outcomes;
  • We feel that by having an integrated plan, it will contribute tremendously to the profession and hope that it re - introduces it as a career option for many young aspiring teachers.

We believe that if implemented properly, the plan will elevate the status of the profession.

This plan is therefore also a necessary condition for the success of the broader QLTC - Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign. We all agree that teachers must be "on time, on task, well prepared and professionally behaved" - and it is correct to make this call at this time. But we will need to start asking questions about the quality of the time on task - and how to improve this. Again teacher development and support are key here. In terms of the QLTC, the Department has a clear responsibility to facilitate teacher development and support. We must hold each other collectively accountable for these individual responsibilities.

We therefore conclude by calling upon the Department of education to reopen the colleges of education now.

Collectively we must ensure that teacher training based on the plan we are launching also achieves the following:

  • curricular for basic education is based on the values as enshrined in the constitution of RSA
  • policy makers never leave out the teachers in developing education policies
  • curricular stimulates learners’ self-esteem by developing their knowledge of the characteristics and achievements of their own communities. Avoid mono-culture curriculum.
  • appreciate that learning is not simply the acquisition of new information. Rather it is a complex process of transforming conceptual frameworks. Awareness of the problems caused by cultural and linguistic differences in the classrooms is taken as positive elements in education.
  • Provide capacity to teachers to help learners develop the capacity to understand complex systems and avoid simplistic thinking.

This must help us to deal with racism and xenophobia in our classrooms and society.

Let us be on task as directed by the theme of this launch.