School heads lack skills, Manuel says
Cape Town - Principals at state schools often do not know how to manage, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel told MPs on Wednesday.
Briefing members of Parliament's public service portfolio committee on the newly-released National Development Plan (NDP), he said the process of appointing school heads needed to be changed.
"We must change the process of appointing principals. In fact, principals should be properly trained and equipped to manage schools, and frequently they don't know how to manage. They don't know how to oversee teachers."
Among other things, the NDP calls for the introduction of minimum qualifications for school principals.
Manuel was also critical of some maths teachers, who, he said, needed regular testing to ensure they were up to the task of teaching pupils.
"We must regularly test teachers. Some of the results we've looked at in the diagnostic of teachers who teach grade one to three maths - they can't pass. Grade 4 to 6 maths, you're in the low 30%.
"If you don't know enough to transmit this to an 8-year-old, what chance in life does that child have?"
Manuel noted that the NDP contained a proposal to link teacher pay to pupil performance.
He said there was a "desperate need" for maths, science, technology and English teachers.
"If you look at the class that passed Matric in 2010, there were just under 1.4 million learners who enrolled in grade one in January 1999," Manuel said.
"Of that 1.4 million, just under 600 000 wrote the exam last year. About 430 000 passed. And of those that passed, only 13% had university passes and an additional 12% had diploma passes."
One of the aims of the NDP was to take the "lottery" out of schooling and improve children's chances in life.
"When people come through schooling that doesn't equip them, finding a job is very difficult because the basic skills are not in place."
Among other things, the NDP calls for increasing the higher education participation rate, from 17 to 30%; and trebling the number of university science and maths course entrants by 2030.
Further, it looks to South Africa's universities producing over 100 PhD graduates per million population by that year.
Manuel said this would require a five-fold increase.
"I think we're [producing] about 21 [PhDs] per million at the moment," he said.
The draft plan, which was released last Friday for public scrutiny, also proposes that work permits be granted to foreigners who graduate from South African universities.