We've improved subject knowledge of teachers in maths - DBE

Dept says this is reflected in the steady and sustained improvement in the matric results

Basic Education Department doing more to improve content knowledge among teachers

08 Aug 2014

The report released this week suggesting that teachers are not sufficiently equipped to teach mathematics is not revealing anything new. It is a rehash of what is already in the public domain.

In fact the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has made significant progress toward improving the subject knowledge of teachers particularly in mathematics and physical science. Content knowledge by teachers across all grades was identified as a challenge years back and action has been taken to address this matter.

We have noticed a steady and sustained improvement in MST National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results. This is a result of strategic systemic interventions for strengthening and raising performance at all levels of the system.

The number of passes in Mathematics, increased to 142 666 in 2013, which is 20 696 more than the 121 970 passes of 2012. In Physical Sciences, we experienced an increase of 124 206 passes in 2013, which is 14 288 more than the 109 918 of 2012 passes in line with the National Development Plan and the Sector Plan. The detailed diagnostic analysis of NSC results has enabled us to implement improvement strategies.

In February 2013 already the Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga established a Ministerial Task Team for Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) to conduct an investigation into the implementation of the Mathematics, Science and Technology Strategy. The Task Team presented a report of its findings and recommendations in June last year.

The Department has since implemented the recommendations of the Task Team that were considered urgent. We have already established the MST Office with its main job is to drive the MST curriculum and assessment targets in the sector. The national MST institute and nine provincial institutes will in the next five years increase outputs in order to turnaround MST by 2019. The institutes will provide strategic support and advise the DBE on MST matters, conduct research, undertake impact studies, and provide teacher development programmes and support materials to turnaround MST in the country.

In partnership with Vodacom, we have equipped and connected 40 Teacher Centres across the 9 provinces. In addition to the training at the centres teachers attend weekly webinars to gain knowledge on specific areas of the curriculum. Vodacom will further equip and connect 20 new teacher centres. This means that a total of 60 teacher centres will be fully digitised by the end of this financial year.

Yesterday, 7 August Minister Motshekga launched Subject Committees and Professional Learning Communities to promote discussion and inputs by subject specialists on curriculum policy development and implementation.

Minister Motshekga will on Sunday, 10 August 2014 launch a series of Teacher Training Centre Workshops at the OR Tambo International Airport. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Provincial Departments of Education (PDEs) will conduct the workshops for Teacher Training Centre managers. The centres are part of the institutional mechanisms that are geared to drive the provision of quality training to our teachers in order to improve their skills and competencies.

Effective curriculum delivery is a principal indicator of quality basic education and teachers are the vehicles through which the curriculum is delivered. The Subject Committees and PLCs will provide a uniform mechanism for subject teachers and other subject specialists to contribute to the continuous process of curriculum development and effective curriculum implementation.

So far we equipped and connected 40 (31 of these were equipped in 2013/14) teacher centres throughout the country; connected 890 schools, established www.digitalclassroom.co.za and trained teachers.

We are focusing on raising the success rate and quality of passes in MST through various strategic interventions and partnerships. The Sasol-Inzalo partnership has resulted in the development of Hybrid Workbooks in Natural Sciences, Technology and Mathematics, in order to strengthen CAPS implementation in the senior phase. We have also partnered with Japan in the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Project to improve learners' ability to solve word problems in primary school Mathematics.

Statement issued by Elijah Mhlanga, Department of Basic Education, August 8 2014

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