China, Cuba to help SA

2015-03-18 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Mathematics teachers will soon learn more about their subject from China and Cuba.

The Department for Basic Education’s annual strategy plan moots several steps to learn from Chinese and Cuban pedagogues within the next year:

• Exchange programme: Identify teachers, specialists and/or subject advisers who show potential to attend exchange programmes at Chinese universities. Education experts and provincial co-ordinators will also visit Chinese universities.

• Cuban tutors: Recruit tutors from Cuba to train and support mathematics and science teachers and district officials.

• Strategic plan: Work with Chinese education experts on a plan to use more efficiently resources in the Education Department. A second plan will also be drawn up with Chinese experts to improve South Africa’s technical training.

• Textbooks: Get textbooks on maths, sciences and technology from China.

Departemental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said several countries were being considered to help improve SA’s basic education.

“Cuba is one of the countries with whom South Africa has a long partnership. They train doctors and maths is an integral part of this training,” he said.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga met with education experts in Cuba at the end of January.

In South Africa, education experts are, however, asking why only China and Cuba?

“Why don’t we ask advice from Finland? They have the best education system in the world,” said Professor Monde Mbekwa, director of the School of Science and Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

“The government and the ANC have strong historic ties with Cuba and new economic agreements with China. It is always very dangerous to mix ­education and politics. Why don’t we use experts in South Africa to train teachers?”

Professor Hercules Nieuwoudt, head of mathematics education at the North West University (NWU), said that ­language differences would sink the initiative.

“Our doctors who are being trained in Cuba are struggling a lot with the language. How are we going to bridge this gap in training teachers? And do the Chinese and Cubans understand the cultural context of South Africa?

“Yes, China is doing very well in maths, but it is only with Chinese pupils in Chinese schools, where the teacher is seen as the master. [Their system] may not work here.

“On the other hand, our maths teaching is in such a desperate state, every little bit will probably only be of help.”

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