ATTEMPTS to address problems in the basic education system have been characterised by lack of accountability and blame shifting, while the system was in need of professional management and support from all interested parties, the National Development Plan noted yesterday.
The final version of the plan was frank about the difficulties facing the system, but did not mention the widely acknowledged fact that 80% of SA’s public schools are dysfunctional.
The plan identified the major impediments to efforts at improving basic education as: human capacity weakness in teaching; poor management and school support from district offices; the poor language skills of pupils; and the lack of co-operation between key stakeholders, particularly the trade unions and the government.
The revised plan notably climbed down on the proposal to link teacher performance and pay to improved outcomes — which was widely criticised by teacher unions, the education department and experts — as impossible to implement effectively.
However, it emphasised that teacher professionalism must "be rebuilt", and accountability for performance enhanced.
It recommended that the wage structure should recognise qualifications, experience and scarcity of skills in specific subjects and geographic areas.
Salaries should be linked to career paths, and good teachers should be rewarded, according to the plan.
South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union had submitted extensive research on other countries’ attempts to link teacher performance to pay.
Even those countries that had "small successes" with such a policy ultimately abandoned it.
The need to link pay to performance needed to focus on professional development of teachers and their conditions of service.
It was these factors that the union considered as important when it discussed the matter with government, he said.
Prof Graeme Bloch, education analyst and senior researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute, said he was "relieved" that the plan had discarded the unworkable proposal of linking pay to performance. Prof Bloch said despite the recognition of the limitations of the proposal to link teacher performance to salaries, Sadtu’s role in the problems that had crippled the country’s basic education system should not be ignored.
Sadtu was a "uniquely large" union, and — as despite being a supposedly progressive organisation — had lost its focus in terms of the role of a teacher. In recent years Sadtu had shown it was primarily concerned with wage issues, he said.
The CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, Paul Colditz, said the rebuilding of teacher development mechanisms should be an opportunity for teachers seeing themselves as professionals to participate in professional organisations, not unions.
However, this required a "change of mind-set" and could not be legislated, he said.
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