2014-04-03 11:33

Within the context of its effort to improve and provide quality education in South Africa, the second South African Basic Education Conference (SABEC) was held at Emperors Palace, Gauteng on the 31st March and 1st April.

The aim and objective of the conference is to play a supporting role in focusing and channelling stakeholder collaboration, knowledge-sharing and innovation on the key areas outlined by the Education Collaboration Framework (ECF).

According to the web page of SABEC the Government has acknowledged that the country is experiencing major challenges in education and has put into place a new vision and plan through the National Development Plan and the Department of Basic Education’s Action Plan 2014. The government also declared education a societal issue and has called for a multi-stakeholder partnership to address education challenges.

According to Ms Gail Campbell, conference Chair, there is a growing acceptance that solving educational challenges in the country is urgent and requires the concerted efforts of all stakeholders.

It is against this backdrop that the second SABEC was held in order to provide a platform for academics and teachers, principals, education officials, NGOs and other stakeholders to share learnings and encourage collaboration across the sector.

Mr Allison Rouse of EdVillage and Professor Loyiso Jita of the University of the Free State (UFS) inter alia presented well researched and extremly empowering presentations.

Mr Rouse emphasized the need for Re-Teaching as critical for success. He says focus on getting the basics right before moving on to the next level, grade or more intricate concepts.

Moreover, Rouse believes that we are simply setting the bar too low for our children. A 30% pass mark is far too low. We must expect mastery from our children not just passing at 30%. In order to get quality passes, it all starts at foundation level.

The dialogue on accountability and school leadership by Corruption Watch sent shivers down my spine. Corruption Watch revealed that almost 38% of reported corruption took place in schools, with principals being the main culprits benefiting from the corruption.

To quote Corruption Watch: “Corruption at school level does not only have a negative impact on current learners but also on future generations that will inherit a legacy of poor levels of education. Lack of proper education serve to increase the skills gap already hampering economic growth in South Africa, and in turn counteracting government transformation efforts.

The presentation that stood out for me the most at the conference was by Dr Nick Taylor. He believes in order to improve our education system we need to get our nation reading.

Dr Taylor emphasised the importance of reading in solving South Africa’s educational challenges.

To quote Taylor: “We urgently need a reading programme in South Africa as our situation with regard to reading is particularly desperate. As a nation, reading should be our focus and priority.

He further said that our children must be able to read independently by the end of Grade three and every child should be monitored on their reading at least once a year.

SABEC showed that there is a strong community of organizations, teachers and principals working in schools to improve the learning experience of our learners.

It was an empowering conference and the professionalism and ability of the team must be commended.

The conference was a resounding success and many delegates acknowledged that the conference will have a huge impact on their teaching practice or classroom and school management. It must be recorded that a large part of the success was due to the efficiency, passion and commitment of the organizers.

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