Monday, January 16, 2012
Education and teachers, what's your take?
We need a national debate on education. At the moment we are driving down a unknown road without a map, we don't know where we are going exactly, what point we're at, how far we have to go or where our destination is. What kind of education system do we want? What is the purpose of our education system?
We talk equality but we implement differentiation, so in reality we have a two-tiered school system. What do business and industry want out of education? What do parents want? We are also confusing schooling with education and that is having a negative impact on basic education. There should be rigorous systems of accountability. We need to determine clearly defined standards of behaviour and performance and then place measures of accountability, and make sure that teachers and principals live up to them. Such monitoring and evaluation cannot be conducted by the teachers themselves, but must be undertaken by external, independent bodies and the community that uses the school. If our education system is to be competitive and productive, then we have to have standards that must be maintained.
This means improving district structures as well. One of our problems is that policy is set at national level and supposedly implemented at provincial level, but with provinces excluded from policy making, there is little interest in delivery. This in turn defeats and degrades the concept of policy. A more genuinely de-centralised system would promote much greater community involvement and school level accountability.
A further problem lies not only in the massive backlog of teachers, but also the low erosion rate of teachers and principals. When these professionals stay in one place for long periods, it becomes extremely difficult to implement any kind of change. This also leads to the culture shock awaiting new teachers trained with modern methods who are confronted with stubborn resistance to change by established teachers who often use out-dated methods and poor work practices, they don't know how to overcome this so they frequently either resign or give up and adopt. A starting point would need to be a detailed and realistic national plan on education. This will allow us to start getting the basic blocks in place.