THE Democratic Alliance (DA) has come up with a plan to improve the quality of the country's education system, if given the chance to govern, the party said yesterday.

The plan will focus on four Ts: time, training, textbooks and technology, the party said.

SA's education crisis has dominated headlines in recent weeks, and by putting proposals to improve the system, the DA hopes to score political points ahead of the 2014 general election.

Announcing its plan, the DA said the poor state of the education system was excluding many young people from the mainstream economy.

The DA launched its national jobs campaign at the weekend which, among other goals, seeks to create millions of jobs and to grow the economy by 8%.

The opposition party argues that improving the quality of the education system would give young people the opportunities and skills they need to get a job.

Speaking during a press briefing yesterday, DA leader Helen Zille said that teachers needed to spend more time teaching, adding that improving teacher training was imperative.

The DA would also ensure that every pupil had access to a textbook for each subject they take and that technology could also be implemented to maximise outcomes, Ms Zille said.

The party proposed a raft of changes particularly in basic education, saying "these policies would form the nucleus of our education policy if we were given the opportunity to govern".

Some of the proposals the party put forward yesterday included the introduction of a scarce skills allowance for teachers as well as training workshops to improve the skills of teachers.

"The scarce skills allowance would supplement the salaries of teachers who possess scarce subject knowledge or who produce excellent results in poor schools.

"This will create a financial incentive for teachers to specialise in subjects such as maths and science," Ms Zille said.

The incentive scheme would also encourage "talented" teachers to apply for positions in schools situated in economically disadvantaged areas.

The DA also proposed the introduction of a new teacher strike legislation that would see teachers' right to strike subject to certain limitations. "It will include provisions requiring that terms and conditions be set through consultation and agreement between the government, the unions and school governing bodies before a strike may legally take place, that the rule of 'no work, no pay' be strictly enforced", Ms Zille said.

Education expert Prof Graeme Bloch said yesterday the solutions proposed by the opposition party "made sense", though there was a danger that education was being over-politicised. "The DA has a chance (in the Western Cape) to really show if it can improve results and make things better for the poor," Prof Bloch said.

However, he criticised the DA's proposal to place limitations on teacher strikes.

"In theory, better accountability and fewer strikes are a good thing, but in practice you have to provide the support that makes good teaching possible," he said.

phakathib@bdfm.co.za