Talk, not blame, will improve education

2012-03-31 09:41

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has partnered with Kagiso Trust and City Press to foreground education through a series of dialogues, starting this month.

The series aims to move away from the pathologising and blaming discourse prevalent regarding our public education system.

The dialogues will by no means shy away from boldly naming the issues that plague education.
However, the rationale that underlies the envisaged conversations is that constant finger wagging and blaming are not helpful in moving education forward.

Such conduct has in fact the opposite effect – shirking of responsibility and inaction.

The conversations are aimed at raising accountability and responsibility among and within the nation for the performance of South Africa’s public education system.

The conversations will focus on how we can, collectively, play a role in nurturing and transforming our education system.

The inaugural conversation takes place on April 11 at UJ. The focus is the education, training and innovation section of the National Development Plan (chapter nine). The emphasis will be on schooling.

The plan makes many bold statements on what is to be achieved, for example (page 265): “By 2030, the schooling system is characterised by learners and teachers who are highly motivated; principals are effective managers who provide administrative and curriculum leadership; parents are involved in the schools their children attend; schools are accountable to parents; committed and professional teachers have good knowledge of the subjects they teach; schools and teachers are supported by knowledgeable district officials; the administration of education (including appointment and disciplining of teachers) is the preserve of the government, with unions ensuring that proper procedures are followed; learning materials are readily available; basic infrastructure requirements are met across the board; and high-speed broadband is available to support learning.”

Some of the actions put forward in the plan that will surely elicit strong views include that union and political interference in appointing and promoting education personnel should be removed; that teachers should be regularly tested in the subjects that they teach to ascertain their knowledge and competence; and that teacher pay should be linked to learner performance improvements.

The dialogue will be introduced by the vice-chancellor of UJ, Professor Ihron Rensburg, who serves as councillor in the National Planning Commission, and other role-players such as education unions and the Department of Basic Education.

The format of the event will allow for ample audience participation.

The envisaged outcome of this inaugural dialogue is a submission to the National Planning Commission on the salient issues that emerged.

» Professor Gravett is dean of the faculty of education at UJ

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