SA can reform education system in six years – report

2011-09-08 10:28

South Africa’s troubled education system can be reformed in as little as six years.

This is the opinion of Ann Bernstein, executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE).

Bernstein was speaking at the launch of a new CDE report called Schooling Reform is Possible: Lessons for South Africa from International Experience (September 2011).

The report was released yesterday.

“The international evidence is clear. Schooling reform is possible, in as little as six years and from almost any starting point,” said Bernstein.

To achieve this, Berstein said a new approach to the teaching profession was required. This means improving the salaries of teachers and conducting regular performance assessments.

Many aspects of the current schooling system came in for harsh criticism from the CDE.

“South Africa will not succeed in turning our schooling system around if we continue to have teachers who are present three to four days a week, teach very little but remain employed and receive the same pay as everyone else,” she said.

The report argues that far too often the need for systemic schooling reform is reduced to a discussion about individual isolated projects.

Bernstein said this approach is insufficient for a schooling system that is large and complex, comprising more than 12 million learners, more than 350 000 educators and more than 30 000 schools in 70 districts in nine provinces.

The CDE report summarises a major workshop on the international experience of schooling reform which involved minister of basic education Angie Motshekga, the director-general of basic education, Bobby Soobrayan, and over 60 international and local experts and business leaders.

The report used the experience of four countries (Brazil, Ghana, India, US) to explore what could be learnt and copied to reform the South African schooling system.

The experiences of the countries were examined, supplemented by a review of school systems that are improving in over 20 countries.

“For South Africa to make real progress, the country needs a new social compact for quality schooling. This will require clear priorities, the mobilisation of the many different interests with a stake in better schooling and visionary leadership,” said Bernstein.

Unions were also identified as affecting the teaching system. “Government needs to look into unions because they are holding the country back,” said Bernstein.

She added that many countries have experienced similar challenges with unions to those in South Africa, but their political leaders were able to improve schooling.

“Yes, we need teachers in class, on time, and teaching. But words are not enough,” said Bernstein.
“The country needs bold political leadership, and a new social compact to improve the quality of schooling. South Africa desperately needs much better outcomes,” said Bernstein.

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