Less is more for South African schooling

Teaching and learning is set to become simpler and more effective in South Africa’s state schools from 2010, as the government introduces a number of changes to reduce the administrative burden on teachers while providing them with more support.

The changes follow a report by a task team appointed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to investigate the obstacles to implementing the curriculum in South Africa’s classrooms.

“Our focus is to strengthen curriculum delivery, and thus we have identified those steps that can be taken immediately to streamline delivery, and others that will take slightly longer to implement,” Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in Cape Town this week.

Changes that will come into effect in January 2010 include:

•    Discontinuing the use of student portfolios.
•    Requiring teachers to keep only one administrative file.
•    Reducing the number of subjects in the intermediate phase from eight to six.
•    Giving priority to English as a first additional language in the lower grades.

Changes welcomed across the board

Development Bank of Southern Africa education policy analyst Graeme Bloch has welcomed the moves, saying that teachers’ administrative burden “has been one of the major teacher complaints, as it keeps them from their primary job of teaching.

“It also enhances unnecessary control by junior officials over experienced teachers. Rather, officials need to think how they can more effectively support teachers in the classroom.”

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa president Ezrah Ramasehla said the task team’s recommendations were about making improvements to education in the country without making compromises.

“They are about making the lives of teachers easier so that they have more time to do that which they are already doing better.”

Ramasehla praised the government for embarking on a process of listening to classroom teachers. “The findings and recommendations are based on evidence presented by teachers themselves about the kinds of problems they are experiencing, and there has been remarkable consensus about what these problems are.”

South African Democratic Teachers Union spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said the discontinuation of learner portfolios would give learners and teachers more time to focus on more beneficial day-to-day classroom activities.

At the same time, the reduction of the number of subjects in the intermediate phase “will enable teachers to focus on developing deeper conceptual understanding than was previously possible,” Cembi said.

South Africa’s Cabinet has also welcomed the changes, saying they would go “a long way towards improving the quality of education across all our schools, as they address concerns from various stakeholders, particularly teachers, parents, learners and academics.”

Source: BuaNews, nytimes.com, sasix.co.za, realgap.com

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