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Many SA teachers can't teach - Annette Lovemore

DA MP says NEEDU report states that poor subject knowledge of teachers arguably fundamental problem in education system

Many South African teachers are incapable of teaching

The DA is alarmed that during her speech earlier this week, Minister Angie Motshekga, welcomed the first report emanating from the recently established National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) but neglected to make any mention at all of the report's primary finding (see full text of the report here). 

The main question must be why the Minister is silent on the damning conclusion that most of South Africa's teachers exhibit a lack of content knowledge, are incompetent at imparting knowledge and are thus, effectively, not capable of teaching. 

The author of the report, NEEDU CEO, Dr Nick Taylor, states that "poor subject knowledge on the part of teachers continues to be a critical problem". The point is then driven home: "This is arguably the fundamental problem in the school system". 

Dr Taylor goes further to state that department heads and subject advisors are often not qualified to assist - with appointments having been made based on patronage and not on expertise or fitness for purpose. 

I will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Basic Education, Ms Hope Malgas, and request that this report be tabled in Parliament and considered in detail by the Portfolio Committee. It must be fully interrogated and vigorously debated.

The Minister is going to have to confront the uncomfortable truths:

  • Universities are producing teachers who are not fully qualified to teach;
  • Teachers do not understand the importance of reading;
  • Children are falling behind in their ability to read, write and count by the end of the foundation phase, and are unlikely ever to catch up;
  • Her training interventions have not worked;
  • Principals, largely, do not have the knowledge or competence required for their roles;
  • Union interference in appointments is resulting in a dysfunctional education system.

The DA welcomes Dr Taylor's highlighting of the Western Cape's literacy and numeracy systemic intervention, and the recommendation that this, together with the Gauteng model, be fully evaluated for impact and possible extension.

The Minister has much work to do in light of what is an honest and serious indictment of education at the foundation phase in South Africa's schools.

More than anything, she is going to have to meet SADTU head on. She will have to insist on effective screening and competence monitoring of teachers, competence tests to be passed by subject advisors and by any teachers who apply for promotion posts. She will have to implement proficiency criteria for all promotion posts, including the post of school principal. 

These, and the raft of other recommendations made by Dr Taylor, echo the DA's calls over the past years.

The Minister cannot ignore the realities any longer. She must stiffen her political backbone and take the requisite action.

Statement issued by Annette Lovemore MP, DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, May 5 2013

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