Marking the teachers: Chairman of the National Education Collaboration Trust Sizwe Nxasana says standards for teachers are patchy at best. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Marking the teachers: Chairman of the National Education Collaboration Trust Sizwe Nxasana says standards for teachers are patchy at best. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The South African Council for Education (SACE) is a stumbling block to the improvement of basic education, according to a report by the Centre for Development and Enterprise.

The report included the lack of teacher accountability, along with bureaucratic unions and a lack of political will among the causes of poor quality education in the country.

Regulated by the South African Council for Educators Act of 2000, the body is legislated to register teachers, develop education and training, review a code of professional ethics for registered teachers and oversee disciplinary measures as necessary.

The report said it was necessary to develop standards for the practice of teaching that supported learning gains.

Chairman of the National Education Collaboration Trust Sizwe Nxasana said there had been a debate since 2014 about the need to reform the SACE.

"If the body functions as it should, we should, as a country, start to see the benefit of the professional standards that should be set for teachers," Nxasana said. "At the moment those standards are patchy, if implemented at all."

Education and development consultant Jane Hofmeyr, who worked on the report, said professionalising teaching was a worldwide issue.

SACE had been told by the South African Qualifications Authority that to fulfil its mandate and to be recognised as a professional council, it had to set meaningful standards and have designations for teachers, Hofmeyr said.

Currently, a qualified teacher just had to register with SACE and could be a teacher for life, she said. Designations would serve to screen teachers to ensure they met criteria to be recognised as higher performing teachers qualifying for promotion, she said.

The Department of Basic Education has been involved in an investigation into jobs for sale. Minister Angie Motshekga has said the probe was being handled by the country’s crime-fighting authorities.

The Centre for Development and Enterprise report said the evaluation of teachers needed to be formative and summative to appraise performance, strengthen accountability and support professional development.

Hofmeyr said unions had blocked government efforts to implement performance appraisals. About 70% of the teaching cohort was made up of South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) members.

Motshekga said it would be dishonest to deny the positive contributions made by the Sadtu membership. "It is the biggest union, so they are going to have the biggest problems," she said.

"I refuse to say all my problems are a Sadtu problem."

Professionalising the sector was welcome, but should not be used as a bureaucratic control measure, National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) representative Anthea Cereseto said. "If the focus is only on accountability without support, it is not going to work."

SA needed to be more cognisant of the kinds of people selected for teaching and there was a need to include different indicators other than matric results. "Teachers need to have agency and be powerful professionals that can take over their own work," Cereseto said.

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