Teacher-competency tests get Cyril Ramaphosa’s vote

2013-11-05 16:44

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ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the reintroduction of the controversial competency tests for teachers.

Speaking exclusively to City Press at the official opening of the Rene & Fred England Mathematic Centre for Excellence at the Roedean School SA in Parktown, Ramaphosa said teachers would only improve if they submitted themselves to competency assessments.

“Everybody else should be benchmarking themselves – benchmarking themselves against those who are better. And the only way you can do so is to submit yourself to an evaluation process, an assessment process with a view of improving yourself. You’ve got to have somebody who will hold up a mirror and say: this is how you look and there are things you can do to improve yourself so that you can get better and better all the time.”

Ramaphosa said the apartheid system was responsible for badly trained teachers.

“Quite often we blame teachers but it is actually not their fault that their competency in teaching is as bad as it is. It arises from the legacy of apartheid. These teachers have always been in the pipeline and the pipeline was poisoned by the apartheid system,” he said.

Our learning outcomes are rather poor but that doesn’t mean we must give up, he said, adding that the country should work even harder to improve learning outcomes.

“We must make sure that out teachers are more capable, that they are better equipped, better resourced and better trained.”

However, SA Democratic Teachers’ Union secretary Mugwena Maluleke shot down the idea of competency tests for teachers. “We are calling for an audit of the entire system not just competency tests.” Competency tests, he said, were short-sighted in that they would not take into account that more than half of teachers were teaching subjects they were never trained to teach.

“A skills audit will look at what skills are available, where and how can they be used effectively. This will identify weaknesses, which could be strengthened,” Maluleke said. Since most teachers were teaching subjects they were not trained to teach, Maluleke said many teachers would not do well in competency tests.

Of the Mathematical Centre of Excellence, Ramaphosa said: “This in my view is a pioneering initiative in the sense that out of privileged schools we can get schools which align themselves with the developmental agenda of the country, and to help other schools improve their own capacities and capabilities.”

Roedean principal Mary Williams said the project was conceived five years ago when the school considered strategic imperatives for it and the country at large. “We decided to specialise in maths. In time, we will also specialise in science.”

As part of the programme, the school has partnered with the University of Witwatersrand. The university, said Williams, has developed a curriculum to train maths teachers from previously disadvantaged schools.

Teachers from 10 previously disadvantaged schools in Soweto are benefiting from the programme. “We also want to up-skill teachers in advanced-programme maths. Many kids from disadvantaged schools would like to take up advanced programme maths but there are just no teachers”, said Williams.

As part of the school’s other social responsibility programmes, Williams said about 60 girls from previously disadvantaged communities visit the school on daily to receive extra maths classes.


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