How we can incentivise teaching

2012-07-21 12:56

It is clear, by the views ­presented at the second ­instalment of the UJ-Kagiso Trust “education conversation”, that incentivising teaching in South Africa is a challenging debate that elicits divergent views.

And if the conversation that was held this past Tuesday is anything to go by, the debate is productive and ­illuminating.

The primary question of the conversation was: “How do we incentivise teaching, and what is the need for doing so?”

Kgotso Schoeman, the chief executive of the Kagiso Trust, presented his views on incentives, which are rooted in his ­experience of working closely with underperforming schools across the country.

His trust rewards schools who exhibit improvements in performance by providing them with infrastructure, which can include anything from computer labs to running water.

Schools that are able to ­improve student performance in the face of poor resources and an ailing, or absent, infrastructure should be rewarded.

The Kagiso Trust also has a reward system for teachers who improve learner results.

The goal of this, according to Schoeman, is to make people feel value for their effort. By rewarding the performance of schools and individuals one can really make a ­difference.

Schoeman believes a system of education cannot function, or even be sustained, if one does not separate “good teachers” from “bad” and reward them ­accordingly. He thus calls for a performance appraisal system that rewards good teachers, while withdrawing rewards from their poor-performing counterparts.

His further, even more radical, idea is to remove teachers from the system altogether if they show a clear lack of ­commitment and no impetus to contribute productively to ­improving matters.

Schoeman thus argues for the implementation of an extrinsic reward system that is rigorous and clear in what it rewards. But Godwin Khosa, the chief executive of Joint Education Trust ­Education Services, suggests that we need to address what motivates teachers intrinsically if we are to make a lasting change.

His view that teachers will only improve if what motivates them internally is sufficiently addressed, is supported by studies that try to understand what motivates teachers.

Khosa maintains we need to say thank you to those who are putting in the long hours, as they are currently the glue of our system. Furthermore, Khosa’s ideas reflect a need to alter the social status and perception of teaching, by internalising the importance of the profession.

He maintains that we need a more cohesive system that ensures the effective delivery of the curriculum, and that we need to improve teacher ­content knowledge and curriculum coverage if we are to improve the quality of education.

He cautions that material and extrinsic incentives may not be the most reliable way of ensuring improvements in the system.

They are certainly not the most cost-effective solutions, and might not be the most ­sustainable.

Mugwena Maluleka, the ­general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, argues that we cannot blame unions for shielding teachers when school leaders and districts are responsible for driving improvements in ­performance.

He explains that teacher ­unions have the task of ensuring the improvement of its members through continued professional development and enriching the competence of its members further.

“We need to affirm the value of our teachers. We cannot judge the majority of teachers in the face of a minority of poor teachers.

Teachers are calling for support, not only monetary, but for support through induction, mentoring and orientation. Teachers need in-service training and lifelong professional development. We want teachers to feel valued and ­important,” Maluleka says.

Frequent changes to the curriculum, he explains, are a source of major demoralisation. He argues that we must use performance management to improve teachers and not chastise them.

From these views, it appears that one cannot separate an ­extrinsic reward system from an intrinsic sense of value. We need to address the way we as a society view the teaching profession by rewarding good schools and teachers.

This system of reward can, and should, be material and monetary, but it should be accompanied by a fundamental reformulation of the way we speak about our teachers. The most lasting gift we as a society can give would be to raise the status of the profession to sacrosanct.

» Dampier is a member of the UJ-Kagiso Trust initiative and lectures at the department of childhood education at the ­University of Johannesburg

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