Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

A NEW report has found that teachers in SA are getting worse and continue to fare poorly in proficiency in the key subjects of English and maths.

According to the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (Sacmeq) report that was presented to MPs on Tuesday, only 33% of Grade 6 teachers demonstrated "critical reading" skills compared to 77.8% in the 2007 study.

The average score for reading achieved by Grade 6 teachers dropped from 758 in the 2007 study, to 672 in the 2013 study. For maths‚ the average score achieved by Grade 6 teachers dropped from 764 in the 2007 study to 757 in the 2013 study.

Sacmeq scores are scaled to have an international average value of 500 and a standard deviation of 100 points. Previous Sacmeq studies have shown that teachers could not answer questions taken from tests that their pupils were expected to answer.

The latest report raises more questions about SA’s education system amid growing calls for teachers to be tested regularly in the subjects they teach.

South African pupils continue to lag behind their peers across much of the world in maths and science.

The Human Sciences Research Council has previously said that the skills shortage, particularly in science, technology, engineering, maths and accounting, is hampering SA’s economic growth.

The shortage has largely been blamed on the poor quality of teaching.

In this latest study, Grade 6 language and maths teachers wrote the same tests as pupils, with a few items pitched at a higher level of difficulty than those of pupils.

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In its presentation, the Department of Education said the research was informed by policy concerns identified by ministers of the 15 member countries including SA, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Of the countries surveyed‚ SA was ranked sixth in the quality of teaching‚ behind countries with considerably smaller economies.

The department said teacher development and training would be crucial in tackling some of the issues raised in the report.

DA MP and basic education spokesman Gavin Davis said: "The data underscores the need to improve the quality of teaching in our schools." He said the DA would be calling for a full-scale review of teacher training and ongoing development of teachers.

South African Democratic Teachers Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union was not surprised by the report. "As long as the teachers are not adequately trained, these reports will always find that we are lacking," he said.