Teacher Development, Introduction of African languages in schools: Departmental briefings

Basic Education

10 June 2013
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Members of the Higher and Basic Education Committees received presentations from both the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The first presentation, on the current status and plans for teacher education in South Africa, noted that it was intended to establish new university / teacher campuses, in order to create strong relationships with teaching schools and practical training. From the following year a new system would be put in place requiring teachers to complete 150 points of professional development. Although there was an increasing number of graduates becoming teachers, there was still a shortage and a three-fold strategy, concentrating on increasing enrolments, increasing campus capacity with increased funding and support, and establish new campuses, was planned. This should reach the goal of producing 22 000 teaching graduates by 2019. The bulk of grant funding would be put to campus expansion and infrastructure. There was also a need to develop the ability and pedagogical knowledge of teachers.  
The second presentation from the DHET outlined the steps taken so far in continuing professional development. Teaching Diagnostics Assessments were presently under way for mathematics, and it was hoped to implement additional subject areas by August. Five provinces had teacher institutes and DHET wanted to encourage more. There was a need to boost English skills, since all examinations were written in English. Although there was a slow start, 58 000 teachers were being taken through ongoing development. Members asked how the teacher supply and demand gap was to be lessened, asked if teachers were bound to teach for a fixed time after graduating, asked for provincial breakdowns of where teachers were placed and what exactly DHET was doing. Members raised questions on the specialist teachers and training to provide Special Needs Education, as well as what had been done for deaf and blind learners. Several raised questions on quality, including who was responsible for ensuring quality in training, the minimum requirements to became a lecturer, how the skills of lecturers at the institutions could be increased, and whether any particular problems had been isolated in respect of graduates from particular institutions. Members questioned how teachers could graduate if they had poor subject knowledge, and how the practical competencies would be developed. They questioned the drop-out rate from teaching courses, whether there were incentives to attract the top students into teaching, and whether the interview processes were sufficient. They also made the point that leadership of the schools played a part, asked for the budget in respect of some provinces, and asked what exactly would be taught in the new Teaching Centres.  
The third presentation, from the Department of Basic education, outlined the rationale behind, details of and readiness of he system to introduce policies for Incremental Introduction of African Languages into all public schools. This was intended to fulfil the constitutional recognition of all eleven official languages and elevate their status. Some provinces already had plans in place, whilst Mpumalanga offered an African language as an additional subject, but it was recognised that many schools lacked language proficiency, and many were not teaching children in their home language. The policy also planned to increase access to languages by all learners, beyond English and Afrikaans, while at the same time promoting social cohesion and expanding opportunities for the development of African languages as a significant part of preserving heritage and culture. The policy would begin in Grades R and 1 in 2014, reaching through to all grades by 2025. Members expressed their views that this was long overdue but it was regrettable that it would take so long to implement. They questioned whether there would be sufficient teachers, asked for information on how many teachers there were in each province, wondered if a pilot project would be run first, and what consequences would ensue if schools failed to implement the policy. They questioned if it was in the Annual Performance Plan.

Meeting report

Teacher Education and Development: Department of Higher Education and Training briefing
Dr Whitfield Green, Acting Chief Director, Department of Higher Education and Training, noted that currently there were two paths that people may follow to become teachers; the first by doing a Bachelor of Education degree, and the second by doing an undergraduate degree, followed by a professional graduate-level certificate. There were currently 21 teaching universities in South Africa, with additional ones being built.

Although there was an increasing number of graduates becoming teachers year-on-year, there was still a persistent and wide gap in filling the needs for the number of teachers in South Africa, which was assumed to be over 8 000. This calculation took into account an estimated 4.5% attrition rate, which was a full 100 basis points above all current research studies.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET or the Department) \had developed a three-fold strategy to focus on the growing of new teachers to address the supply /demand gap. Firstly, it was intended to increase the total number of enrolments on each of the teaching campuses, secondly to expand the capacity on each of those campuses through increased funding and support, and thirdly to establish new teacher education campuses and evaluation. If this path was followed, it seemed that South Africa could probably reach its goal of having 22 000 new teaching graduates by the year 2019.  

Dr Green spoke to resources, noting that much of the current grant funding would be going toward campus expansion and infrastructure. He also noted that the new teacher education campuses would ideally be located next to schools – alternatively that new schools would be built next to existing campuses, in order to strengthen the relationship between them in order to promote greater and more active teacher training, development, and exposure. However, he stressed that all developments were entirely dependent on whether additional funds would be obtained.

He also spoke to the need to develop the quality of South Africa’s current teachers. A recent report from the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) showed substantial challenges with the current ability and pedagogical knowledge that teachers had. For this reason, it was desirable to develop a new qualification policy for teacher education, as well as expanding teacher exposure. Finally, the DHET would be conducting a longitudinal study to investigate the ability of newly qualified teachers to undertake a successful transition to the new systems, in order to strengthen current teacher education

Continuing Professional Development: Department of Higher Education and Training briefing
Mr Haroon Mahomed, Director, Department of Basic Education, read his presentation directly from the presentation slides (see attached document) and made a number of points in relation to continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers. He noted that to date, the DHET had distributed over 400 000 workbooks, with a positive reception. At the moment, Teaching Diagnostics Assessments were under way for Mathematics. Additional subject areas would be implemented by August, with the hope of wide-scale implementation in the following year.

He noted that during the 2009 summit, it was noted that five provinces had established teacher institutes, and DHET encouraged them to gain in strength, and more to develop. The collaborations with sponsorship companies (see attached presentation) would aid in the development of further teaching centres.

He noted that the DHET had a particular need to set up a programme for advising and aiding teachers with English, since all of the exams were conducted in English. In addition, by the end of 2015, the DHET aimed to have one teacher with master-language capabilities to be in each of the schools.

The programme of CPD had got off to a slow start, but had managed to take over 58000 teachers through a Professional Development programme. Under the new teacher evaluation point system, teachers would have to complete 150 points worth of professional development. To make it easier for teachers to be aware of the professional development, the DHET was creating a “living catalogue” of all of the available options.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) was concerned with the teacher supply and demand gap. She asked if there were any rules that bound teachers, once they had been trained, to remain in the country after training.

Ms Mushwana asked about the time frame within which it was intended to implement the new teacher development schools. She also wanted a provincial break-down of where the 270 000 teachers would be sourced and placed.

Mr Mahomed replied that he could provide the teachers’ district and provincial breakdown.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) noted the statement that there was a need for additional funding for teacher development. She wanted to know exactly what the DHET was doing, in order to give the Committee the chance to assess what still needed to be done in this regard. She also wanted more detail of the exact responsibilities of the specialist teacher that DHET was intending to place in the schools, and what the Committee was expecting of those teachers.

Mr Mahomed replied that the DHET was expecting to achieve a target of at least one teacher per school. It was expected that they should have the ability to screen, assess, and identity different learners with different disabilities and needs. In addition, he wanted to make sure that within each school, there would be services provided to address those children’s needs. This policy would also aid in referring students to the various special needs agencies, if their own school did not have the resources to help them.

Ms Mushwana asked about the challenges South Africa’s teachers were facing in their development, in relation to the comment that the quality needed to be improved, and wanted to know what skills exactly were lacking.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) stated that he had not heard anything in the presentation about who was responsible for ensuring quality and training of teachers, and asked for more detail on that point.

Dr Green stated that a new policy was recently released, setting out the minimum requirements to become a technical and vocational lecturer.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked how the policy was going to assist South Africa’s teachers, since they currently had poor subject knowledge. She also sought more clarity on the practical teaching competency training programme.

Prof A Lotriet (DA) stated that the DHET had to look more closely into the people who were actually training the teachers at the faculties and campuses. She wanted to know if there had been any discussions with the universities, to look at the quality of the courses teachers were taking, and the competencies of the lecturers teaching the teachers.

Dr Green responded that the idea was to build new teacher education facilities that were linked to universities, but the academic training of the teachers would continue to happen on the campuses, which would be separate from the schools. He said that most of the trainers who were teaching prospective teachers had themselves had teaching experience in schools, and then returned to lecture. In order to move forward, the DHET agreed that it was necessary to create a better system for helping educators get a better understanding of teaching. This was one of the reasons for setting up the new teaching campuses. When setting up the campuses, the universities would establish strong relationships with the schools, so that the lecturers could also visit the schools and become involved in the teaching at those schools. DHET wanted teachers to have as high exposure as possible to the practical component of teaching, to get more training while they were in the schools. He understood the criticism that the current trainees would first have to learn theory for three years then have one year of practical training, but said that the policy actually required that the practicals should be spread across the duration of the programme, and must be integrated into the content of the programme, as well as requiring that whatever was taught in theory should be able to be applied in practice.

Prof Lotriet noted her concerns about the inclusive education of deaf students, saying that it was clear that the current administrations were not proficient in South African sign language, and requested whether DHET had any plans to address this yet.

Mr Mahomed outlined that the DHET had made a number of interventions for blind students. He stated that the DHET had formed a relationship with the South African Braille Society, and that there were two programmes, which were presented to the Committee in 2012, which were currently being implemented, and offered to send through further information on those. In addition, there was a programme under way to try to establish further links with the DHET and organisations for the deaf. He conceded that there was still a lot of work to be done to meet the needs for the blind and deaf community.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked about the dropout rate, stating that it was shocking to see how many students did not make it through to becoming teachers. She asked if there were any incentives to attract the top students into teaching. In the past, South African teachers had much higher requirements, such as having to go through three interviews, before being recruited, and wanted to know if there were plans to re-introduce this, or any other additional requirements.

Dr Green responded that his slides did not show the dropout rate but merely showed the number of headcount enrolments in the system, in one year, and the number of graduates in the same year. The dropout rate would only be shown after a longitudinal study. Some studies had been done, and these showed a drop-out rate of about 30% between entry point and graduation.

Ms Lovemore said, in relation to the criticisms about lack of competency in teachers, that she would have thought that a properly-crafted examination would have been able to isolate whether or not a teacher was competent, and she failed to understand how it could be possible to qualify a teacher who was not competent in his or her subject area, because surely this would have been shown by low examination scores. Moreover, she was interested in what the Diagnostics Assessment of the Teachers was going to test. She was concerned that if a teacher was found to be lacking or deficient in any skill, there should be something that mandated the DHET to insist that the teacher undertake further tests or additional training, and asked whether there were disciplinary processes in place.

Mr Mahomed responded that whilst there was a diagnostic assessment tool, there was also consensus that the teacher education system needed to be standardised. Even internationally, there had not been very much work done in testing competency of teachers on an ongoing basis. However, this would enable the DHET to see in what areas the teachers faced problems, and their current levels of knowledge. There was some question concerning the best way to assess teaching skills, particularly on paper, and that was another issue that needed a collective response. Insofar as the implementation of the test was concerned, the DHET would have to run slowly with it as first, and had no doubt that there would be some resistance. DHET said that the key point was to make the process voluntary by getting buy-in from all concerned. At the 2009 summit, it was agreed that there was a need to find some way of assessing teachers in a non-threatening way.

Ms N Gina (ANC) asked if the DHET had seen any difference in the quality of the teachers currently coming into the system.

Dr Green stated that the NEEDU report was not the only report on teacher quality. It was not really possible to look only at “old” and “new” teachers in order to assess overall quality, and he pointed out that more teachers entered the profession every year and there were so many of them from a number of different universities that it was very difficult to isolate whether there was a particular problem with any given school or teacher. It was, however, known that there was a problem with the system insofar as teacher quality was concerned.

Ms Gina wanted to know if the DHET was addressing leadership of the schools, as this was a major factor in how well the school was able to run.

Mr Mahomed stated that the DHET and Ministry were working together, and trying to set up quarterly meetings with school principals, in order to increase the accountability.

Ms Gina asked if there were any specific programmes for inclusive education, and what programmes were available to teachers at the initial stages of their training.

Ms J Ngubeni-Maluleka (ANC) asked why were there no graduates in Mpumalanga or the Northern Cape, asked if there was a budget for training in the provinces, and if the Committee needed to assist in that regard. She also wanted to know what plans had been made for future development of the former colleges in Mpumalanga, and whether the NEEDU report had made any suggestions as to how best to upgrade the teachers.

Mr Mahomed responded that the DHET was currently overseeing the upgrades, by replacing the National Teacher Certificate programmes.

Mr C Moni (ANC) noted that there was much emphasis in the presentations on teachers, but he wanted to know what the DHET was doing to address the needs of the school children.

Mr D Smiles (DA) fully agreed and questioned whether the DHET had taken into account, when drafting the policy, the behaviour and ability to learn of the students. He was insistent that the policy needed to include Special Needs training for all South African teachers. He also enquired what the teachers would be doing in the service-training development institutions.

Dr Green responded that the expectation was that all teachers should have been trained in the area of Special Needs, as part of their training. The DHET had still to work on Special Needs Education training for teachers, but added that this was one area where the Teaching Centres would help.

Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) asked why there was such a problem with the current teachers, and what the problems were with the system producing those teachers. He noted that the current system allowed for entry of teachers into the profession either through a three-year academic track, or a four-year track, and said that the DHET needed to do an assessment as to which was the better system, so that the schools could then select the best teachers to teach the students. For many universities, teaching was not seen as a priority training course, and he believed that DHET needed to come up with incentives to improve the systems.

Dr Green responded that South Africa had not had the luxury of ever being able to be selective as to who was appointed to the teaching profession. It was not possible for DHET to focus on “the best school leaders”. The policy also had to address the “softer factors” such as teacher attitude, values, empathy for the children, and the willingness to work with learners. However, because of what had been accomplished so far, the universities now could start being more selective, since many of them were  starting to get more applicants than their available places. However, in order to address these “soft factors”, the DHET needed additional methods to measure them, and one of the ways, as suggested by the Members, was to have a system of multiple interviews.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) asked whether any of the provinces in fact had enough teachers. He also enquired if there had been any scientific analysis done into teacher training and producing effective teachers, and if so, which processes were shown to be the best. Additionally, he wanted to know if the DHET was willing to, or had already worked with the universities, so that the latter would be aware of exactly what type of teachers were needed to address the ideal student-teacher ratio, and cater accordingly to produce sufficient numbers and quality of teachers. He also wanted to know about the teacher assessments, and how the DHET would make sure there were enough teachers, after the results of the assessment.

Dr Green responded that the university teacher education system was actually very new, having been conceived only in 2011. Even now, many of the universities were still busy re-doing their curricula or study plans to try to address the current problems. He hoped that the new qualifications system would be implemented soon.  It was hoped that the new evaluation process and policy would set up quality systems in South African universities, and this would start to address the issues highlighted in this presentation. The development and training of a teachers was one of the most critical areas that had to be addressed. Another point needing more consideration was what would have to be done if a teacher, having started to work, was not performing properly. He asked Members to bear in mind that new teachers would not have developed pedagogy, and that was why teacher development had to be emphasised, to improve the quality of teachers.

The Chairperson asked that any follow-up questions should be made in writing and submitted to the DHET.

Implementing African languages in all South African schools: Department of Basic Education briefing
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Acting Deputy Director-General: Curriculum, Policy Support and Monitoring, Department of Basic Education (DBE), noted that he would outline the rationale behind, details of, and readiness of the system to introduce policies for incremental introduction of African languages (IIAL) in all public schools.

He noted that the Constitution recognised that South African had eleven official languages and the State was mandated to recognise and elevate the statues of these languages, so it had to have a credible plan to ensure that it was on track in doing so.

The National Education Policy and the South African Schools Act instructed that every student should be instructed in the language of his or her choice, where this was reasonably practicable. The provinces had many different programmes in school education and the National Department of Basic Education had learnt a number of important lessons. It was noted that the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Limpopo planned to train current teachers in the system in isiXhosa. Mpumalanga schools offered an African language as an additional subject. However it was recognised that currently, South African students lacked language proficiency, since many of the schools were not teaching children in their home language. Additionally, many South African schools were still not providing students with the opportunity to learn an African language. Unless there were positive steps taken for the teaching and learning of African languages, these languages would be lost altogether, along with the culture and heritage linked to them.

Currently, Afrikaans and English were scoring the highest result at Grade 5 level, but even these were below international averages.

The IIAL was meant to promote the development, and increase utility of African languages, from Grades R to 12. The policy also planned to increase access to languages by all learners, beyond English and Afrikaans, while at the same time promoting social cohesion and expanding opportunities for the development of African languages as a significant part of preserving heritage and culture.

This plan would start to be implemented in Grades R and 1 in 2014, and reach Grade 12 by 2025.

Prof Lotriet stated that this policy was long overdue, it was a pity to have to wait until 2025 until it would be fully implemented. She believed that a very positive aspect of the policy was that it should revitalise the African language departments at universities around the country.

Mrs Lovemore was also very excited about this programme and also felt it was long overdue. She was curious about what was going to be done for the rest of the year, since there were not many days left. She was also concerned at the implication that there were enough teachers to deal with this, when the Committee knew that there were actually not sufficient numbers.

Ms Gina asked for verified information on how many teachers South Africa had, in each of the provinces, so that the Committee could assess the current state of the South African school system.

Ms Ngubeni-Maluleka had asked if this policy was going to be compulsory, with effect from the first year of implementation, or if there would be a pilot done. She also appreciated the introduction of South African sign language. She asked if the Khoisan languages were also being taken into consideration under this policy. She lastly enquired whether there would be any consequences should any schools fail to comply with this policy.

Mr Smiles asked where, in the 2013-2014 Annual Performance Plan, there was any mention of the policy and its implementation. He believe that the school systems were not ready for this policy, because there were some provinces where no one language dominated, and he also enquired how, under this policy, there would be consensus as to which language was going to be taught, in each school.

Mr K Dikobo had also stated that this policy was long overdue

The Chairperson asked that all follow up questions be submitted in writing.

The meeting was adjourned.


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