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What the State of the Nation Address means for Education

2010/02/19

The SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR EDUCATORS (SACE) welcomes the President's  assurance in the State of the Nation Address that Education will be one of  the five national priorities for the year ahead (and hopefully for the  foreseeable future). One of our founding fathers, the legendary Nelson Mandela, declared that education is the key to the betterment of society.  Therefore the restoration of the centrality of education to our nation’s progress is both heartening and reassuring to compatriots.

The Council wholeheartedly supports the imperatives outlined in the statement, particularly skills development, to unlock a brighter future. The Government has done well to identify some of the key areas in Education that require attention. The focus on Foundation Phase learning should prompt all of us to pay more attention to these most critical years of schooling.

SACE, together with the Departments and the Teacher Unions, have to ensure that teachers are in school on time teaching for 7 hours a day.  Parents must watch that learners are punctual and are doing what is required of them.

The large majority of our teachers have been disadvantaged by an inferior and irrelevant teacher education system. Consequently ongoing empowerment and development of teachers to deliver the new curriculum becomes essential. The provision of text books and typical lesson plans is a step in the right direction. SACE will indeed push for a holistic accelerated plan for teacher development.

The literacy and numeric tests targeting grades 3, 6 and 9 should lay the basis for honest introspection for improvement of the education system.

It is important that more learners must pass their exams to achieve the targets set. It is equally critical that they attain well rounded holistic education. Learners, who are our future, need to develop a value system appropriate to our new Democracy; they need to be taught to practice our own African philosophy of Ubuntu; they need to be made to enjoy all traditions and cultures in our land; their sense of aesthetics needs to be nurtured; they must be schooled to play hard yet fair. They have to become creative thinkers. In our haste to produce good results, let’s not turn our children in unthinking uncaring robots.

The principle of assessment of schools by officials needs to be carefully implemented. The teaching corps has not fully recovered from the oppressive inspectorate of the past that sought only to protect a discredited system. Assessors (and that would be a good name for them) would be welcome if their prime objective is to help learners, teacher and managers to achieve the desired outcomes.

The Presidents exhortation for increase in training and skills development must be taken very seriously. As a nation we need to ensure that ALL our learners either end up in University or as qualified artisans.  Why should we aim for less?

The President has done his job well. We congratulate him. The rest of us can do one of two things:

We can sit in our arm-chairs, rewrite his speech and teach him to govern; or

We can, each one of us, put our shoulders to the wheel to convert the commitments outlined into a living reality.

The choice is ours.

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