DBE doesn't know extent of maths and science teacher shortage - Annette Lovemore

DA MP says in order to turn poor outcomes around we need to know precisely the gap that has to be filled

DBE has no idea of extent of maths and science teacher shortages 

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) does not know the full extent of the shortages of Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) teachers, according to a reply to a DA parliamentary question.

Having qualified, capable, specialist maths and science teachers in every classroom is critical to improving our learners' poor maths and science performance. The DBE's lack of data in essence implies that they cannot adequately plan to address maths and science teacher shortages, and turn around the poor MST results. 

This is highly concerning given the crisis of poor quality maths and science education in South Africa as illustrated by various reports:  

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Information Report 2013 ranks South Africa's maths and science education second last in the world. It further ranked the quality of our education system 140 out of 144 countries assessed; 
  • Only 2% of Grade 9 learners are functionally numerate - 92% of Grade 9's scored less than 30% on the test according to the 2012 Annual National Assessment;
  • In 2011, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that South African learners have the lowest performance among all 21 middle-income countries that participated; 
  • According to the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality Survey (SACMEQIII), many South African mathematics teachers are ill-equipped and lack the knowledge to teach learners adequately; and 
  • The National School Effectiveness Study tested numeracy levels of learners in 266 schools in Grades 3, 4 and 5, using a Grade 3 test as the measure. In Grade 4, learners scored an average of 27% on the Grade 3 numeracy test. 

We cannot underestimate the value of good maths and science teachers in every classroom. Various reports such as the recent NEEDU Report highlighted that teachers lack subject knowledge and the capacity to effectively impart what knowledge they have. 

We have to turn this around, but to do so, we need to know precisely the gap that has to be filled.

The reality is that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has not done enough to address the maths, science and technology crisis. 

She relies on the outdated MST Strategy of 2001. She appointed a task team to investigate the implementation of this outdated strategy, and missed the golden opportunity this offered her to investigate the number, qualifications and utilisation of maths, science and technology teachers in our country. 

The Minister must answer for this. I will therefore submit Parliamentary questions asking, at the least, the following questions:

  • When will full teacher audits take place to determine teacher numbers, particularly the shortages in the field of maths, science and technology?
  • When will the MST Strategy be updated to reflect and address current challenges?
  • What plans does the DBE have in place to monitor and correct teacher shortages?  

South Africa will not succeed unless it is educating learners to become globally competitive young adults. We know our economy requires young adults with skills and knowledge in the fields of mathematics, science and technology. It is now up to Minister Motshekga to ensure that she develops a school environment in which this can be achieved.

Statement issued by Annette Lovemore MP, DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, November 28 2013

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter