Education goals ‘too modest’

2013-05-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Differences over the relative importance of having access to a school as opposed to getting quality teaching dominated the budget debate for Basic Education in Parliament yesterday.

Where ANC speakers focused on the increased number of children who have access to education and the national feeding scheme in schools, opposition speakers countered that increased pupil numbers meant little if they received a poor education.

Minister Angie Motshekga presented Parliament with a Basic Education budget of R17,592 billion.

She said her department was trying its best despite major structural constraints created by more young South Africans going to school and university.

Motshekga said every South African pupil from grades 1 to 9 received a textbook for each subject that was internationally highly acclaimed.

Although she was pleased about the agreement by members of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) to end its the go-slow, she warned that black pupils suffered when Sadtu went on strike.

Praising President Zuma for displaying “signs of genius”, ANC MP Hope Malgas said teaching should be a more “professional profession”.

Annette Lovemore (DA) warned that education in South Africa had set goals that were too modest and the nation should not be proud when these modest aims were met.

Although access to education had increased, Lovemore said, the standard of education was tragically poor.

She said the lack of focus on quality continued unabated at all levels, with no measurable targets set in the departmental year plan except for the matrics’ pass rate.

Schools were not held accountable for results and — on Sadtu’s insistence — no measurable management skills were expected from principals and no punishment was planned for lax or striking teachers.

Koti Dikobo (Azapo) agreed that quality was a problem and it was township children who suffered.

Willie Madisha (Cope) said pupils and teachers were still taking umbrellas to some schools in Limpopo, which still had not roofs.

Alfred Mpontshane (IVP) and professor Leepile Kganyago (UDM) criticised Sadtu in particular for involving pupils in protest marches.

Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, said the government was brave to test pupils’ skills and publish the findings. He stressed that 8,8 million pupils had access to feeding schemes at schools.

He said the the many critics of education policy were demotivating pupils. Turning to Lovemore, he said everyone in South Africa was a product of apartheid. Some, who had benefited, were in the DA and the rest were in the ANC.

Donald Smiles (DA) responded that Surty was singing the only tune the ANC knew, but in future the voters would hold the ANC to account for the state in which South Africa’s education found itself.

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