Cape Town - Making education an essential service will not take away teachers' constitutional rights such as the right to strike, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Delivering his State of the Nation speech to a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, he said it meant that the government wanted "the education sector and society as a whole to take education more seriously than is happening currently".
All successful societies had one thing in common: they invested in education.
"We declared education as an apex priority in 2009. We want to see everyone in the country realising that education is an essential service for our nation," he said.
Decent salaries and conditions of service would play an important role in attracting, motivating, and retaining skilled teachers.
"In this regard, we will establish a Presidential Remuneration Commission which will investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state to all its employees.
"I have directed that the first priority should be teachers."
The commission would also assess the return on investment.
"In elevating education to its rightful place, we want to see an improvement in the quality of learning and teaching and the management of schools.
"We want to see an improvement in attitudes, posture, and outcomes. Working with educators, parents, the community, and various stakeholders, we will be able to turn our schools into centres of excellence," he said.
Much still had to be done to improve maths, science, and technology, and the basic education department would establish a national task team to strengthen the implementation of the maths, science, and technology strategy.
"We urge the private sector to partner government through establishing, adopting, or sponsoring maths and science academies, or Saturday schools," Zuma said.