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Naptosa Paper - Quality Education

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  • 1. Dear Colleagues 1. Introduction Let me thank the organizers of the conference for extending a invitation to me to address their members on the topic “Quality Education: Quo Vadis”. For those who don’t know me, let me give a brief introduction of myself. I am currently working at the University of Pretoria (Faculty of Education: Department of Education Management and Policy Studies), and is also doing some consultancy work for the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance (Sections 21 Company of the Gauteng Department of Education). Previously, I was the Academic Manager of the Executive Leadership Programme at the University of Witswatersrand for one year. And before that, I was the Director at the South African Council for Educators. And before that, I was the professional development leader of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union at a national level, as well as service the Western Cape Province of the union. Before that, I was a teacher, Head of Department and then Principal of a secondary school in Bonteheuwel in Cape Town. I was born in a rural town called Worcester (about 110 km outside Cape Town), where I finished both my primary and secondary school years. I give you this background in order to place what I intend to say within context. The salient points that I attempted to share with you under the title “who am I” are: • I was a classroom teacher, HOD and principal of a secondary school – so, I know what is going on at school level; • I taught at a ‘township” school for more than 15 years – so, I know what is going on in disadvantaged schools and communities; • I was born in Worcester, and also schooled there – so, I know what rural live is all about; • I was the professional development officer at a provincial and national 1
  • 2. level – so, I know what the professional needs are of teachers; • I was a senior member of SADTU for more than ten years – so, I know what unionism is all about; • I was the director of SACE for more than seven years – so, I know the ethical and professional development needs of the profession; • I was a part-time lecturer at UWC, and full-time at Wits and now the University of Pretoria – so, I know the theoretical and practical demands of the education system. Based on the above, I would like you to consider seriously the issues I will raise during my input. In particular, the focus is going to be on ‘teachers’, the only audience I have in front of me. And therefore I intend to challenge our convenient interpretations and perceptions of the topic at hand, namely Quality Education – Quo Vadis (Where too. 2. Quality Education If you go onto the Internet and ‘Google’ the words ‘quality education’ in South Africa, you will find these words in almost every speech of people talking about education, from national to provincial parliaments, and from Ministers to MECs of Education, and from Presidents of teachers unions and Deans and lecturers of education faculties. 2.1 How relevant is the QE debate My first questions is – How relevant is the debate on Quality Education in a country that has the following track record: • From a total of 1,2 million learners who join schooling in Grade 1 every year, about 0.55 million learners (about 45%) end up writing the Matric examination. 2
  • 3. • Of those who write the Matric examination, only 66% of them pass the examination. • Of those who pass the examination, only 1/3 of them leave schooling with a certificate worthy of presentation to others or having a certificate that gives them ‘entry’ to further learning or work opportunity. • If we take all the mentioned calculations above, the success-rate of our education system is only at best, 10% (success to only 1 learner out of every 10 learners starting in Grade 1). Lets do the maths – only 45% of all learners starting in Grade 1 end up writing examination. Therefore, our 66% pass rate is actually only 30% (45% of 66%). Furthermore, our success rate (the percentage of learners starting in Grade 1, who ends up being successful) is only 10%, since 2/3 of those passing Matric are leaving with a ‘school leaving’ certificate. I want to argue that maybe we need to look at the prior steps before we get to Quality Education, and therefore putting quality education as the ultimate that we need to strive for. So, if that is what we are striving for, where are we now? I would like to argue that there are three types of schools in the country (Gallie 2006), namely: • High functioning schools (about 20% of our schools, of which about 5% are excellent); • Low functioning schools (about 50% of our schools); and • Dysfunctional schools (about 30% of our schools). 3
  • 4. Figure 1: Three Levels of School Functionality Looking at figure 1 above, only low- and high-functioning schools operate from a certain amount of basic principles and/or agreements to which all adhere. These include issues like (i) what time the school will start and finish, (ii) when documents need to be submitted, (iii) that personal appointments need to be schedules after school hours or during week-ends, (iv) the procedure to be followed when a teacher is unable to be at school on a particular day, etc. At dysfunctional schools, these agreements are non-existent. Even when the school is going to close, is ‘up for grabs’ every day, at dysfunctional schools. The importance of ‘time-on-task’ is not valued with these schools. They will change, interrupt and/or shorten the day at short notice, blaming it on one or the other issue or event that is now more important than the education of the learners. Both teachers and learners at these schools learn through experience, not to be optimistic about attending the schools for the entire day, and therefore late ‘mentally’ prepare them for an interruption or for some chaotic even to occur. They get ‘saturated’ in this chaos and disruption and will miss it during times when they have to be ‘orderly’, like examination time or when someone for outside come to visit them. 4
  • 5. 2.2 Three steps approach to QE Dysfunctional schools are therefore not ready to ‘strive towards quality education’. In fact, they ‘enjoy’ this chaos where ‘anything goes’, ‘no-one is better than anyone else’, ‘ where don’t stress ourselves’ since there are such a lot of things we can ‘take out of our bag’ why things are the way they are (these will be discussed later under the heading – ten debilitating untruths among teachers in dysfunctional schools). Figure 2: Three steps approach to Quality Education Dysfunctional Low Step 2 High Step 3 Excellen schools Step 1 functioning functioning t schools schools schools Basic Basic Quality Right to Education Education Education Quality for Equality Quality for Competitiveness Based on the above (figure 2), I would like to argue that, in order to us to ‘fix up’ our education system, we first need to know ‘Where we Are’, in order for us to know where we need to go (the Alice in Wonderland story). • Dysfunctional schools must strive to become functional (low). Within these schools, we need to focus on the debate of the ‘basic rights to education’ for all learners, since 90% of the challenges have to do with the adults and not the children (Step 1); 5
  • 6. • Low functioning schools must strive to become high functioning schools. Among these schools, we need to focus on the debate for basic education, and to strengthen and/or go beyond the basics (Step 2); • High functioning schools must strive to become excellent schools. They must focus on the debate of quality education in order for our learners to compete with any other learner. The Quality Education debate, which is focusing on the learner achievement scores in schools, is therefore only applicable and useful to high functioning schools and maybe a portion of the low functioning schools, but is totally irrelevant to dysfunctional schools where our energy is currently needed. The debate on dysfunctional and low-functioning schools is more an equality debate. We will often find the arguments advanced by those in dysfunctional schools to be ‘societal, cultural, political and economic’ issues rather than educational (teaching and learning) issues. I therefore argue that Quality Education could be focussed on in two different ways, namely: • Quality as a method/mechanism to advance Competitiveness of our learners, and; • Quality as a tool to advance Equality within schools where learners are not getting what the education system is promising them. Based on these, the biggest mistake we can make is to believe that only the one is necessary. This takes us back to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, very common within our policy processes and debates. For some schools, the one approach will be relevant and appropriate, while the other approach more relevant and appealing to the other schools. 2.3 Quality and Equality Quality and equality are not identical concepts, although they are interrelated within my argument. Quality is about levels and standards: equality about power 6
  • 7. and resources. A tension exists between the two, especially in dysfunctional schools, that is based on values and ideology. Through the exercise of discretion – based on values and judgements – different stakeholders in the system can influence quality and equality outcomes in favour of different groups in the system. Posing the question Quality for whom? highlights the tension between quality and equality, and can result in radically different answers. At a time of financial constraints on public spending in education, the question of quality for whom becomes even more important. • Is the objective of quality to further raise the standards of the high achievers in order to achieve limited economic imperatives? • Is it to raise the standards of low achievers and move SA up the economic league table? • Is it to raise the standards and opportunities of particular groups of children, girls, rural and disadvantaged, physically challenged? • Fundamentally, is quality rooted on assumptions about universal standards, or on the rights of particular groups, and/or the transformation of our country? I would like to argue that the notion of quality should also embrace a concept of equal opportunities which is focussed not just on outcomes but on processes – how learners experience and participate in the education system. Fundamental to this argument is the declaration that the organisation and delivery of education services is more than the creation of a product for consumption at the end. 2.4 Creating a bridge between quality and equality I would like to argue that quality strategies can succeed in meeting the needs of learners only if they take into account the diverse views and perspectives of a range of groups. Stewart and Walsh (1990) grappled with the link between 7
  • 8. quality and equality and suggested 3 essential elements for a framework for quality: • Whether the core service fits the purpose for which it was designed (3 steps approach to QE); • The physical surroundings (context) in which the service is delivered, and; • The service relationship between those who provide and those who receive the service (shared vision or plan). The following framework is a useful one for examining the inter-relationship between quality and equality. Figure 3. Quality and Equality: An inter-related network Quality Framework Core Service Service relationship Service surroundings Does the service What is the What are the meet the relationship between physical and Dimension Quality requirements of those providing and social conditions those for whom it those receiving the within which the is provided? service? service is provided? Do those who Do those providing the Are the services provide the service service understand the accessible to all Dimension Equality know who the needs of those and how are the receivers will be? receiving the service? people encouraged to use the service? 3. Thinking beyond the obvious This final section is aimed at challenging ourselves as teachers to go beyond the obvious reasons why it is difficult, or sometimes impossible to ensure that all our learners are successful. We can do it – I know so because I am a living example 8
  • 9. of that possibility, and so are the majority of you in this audience. The majority of you come from poverty or challenging circumstances, but you are an example of the success that such an opportunity can create. The trick is now, to ensure that we multiply our success ten, hundred or thousand fold within our learners. To achieve this, I would like to argue for two approaches to be adopted: 3.1 Quality teachers to Equity schools Schools where learners are subjected to socio-economic conditions that are not favourable for learning, have to start thinking about getting quality teachers to their schools. What I mean by ‘quality teachers’ is, those teachers who are not looking at the challenging conditions as a deficit, but rather as a motivator and an inspiration to work harder and smarter. We have to move from the premise that the intelligent capacity of the learners can’t be determined by the economic status of the learners/parents/communities. Yes, we acknowledge that it is not ‘easy’ for these learners to focus on their education while there are other issues very (even more) pressing than their learning success. But, we have to approach this challenge with the mental strength that is needed to overcome it. We, as teachers, are often the only ‘greater of opportunity’ between the socio-economic conditions of the learners, and their ability to be successful and therefore finding a way out of the cycle of poverty. It is about being determined to ‘save’ one learner at a time. We have to assist our learners to be achievers at three levels in their lives, namely (i) socio-economic and political achievement, (ii) personal achievement, and (iii) academic achievement. Our learners can’t be short of any of these three achievements. Therefore, our efforts need to be tripled, and therefore can’t be equal to that of those teachers dealing with one or two of the three challenges. Our efforts need to equal the challenges, and not what others are doing. 9
  • 10. Finally, let me raise some controversial issue, on which I am currently doing a research project. Based on initial data, I am calling it ‘untruths’ within our education system. 3.2 Ten debilitating untruths or misperceptions among teachers in South African dysfunctional (and low functioning) schools In a recent book written by Prof Jonathan Jansen, called Knowledge in the Blood, he narrates to us the experiences of ‘white Afrikaners’ at the University of Pretoria. In particular, he gives us a rich, and in depth view of some of the racism behaviour of students who were never part of the Apartheid era (period) but having a strong sense of that era as if they were living during that era. Likewise, I would like to argue that we also have some ‘false memories’ which we find diffcult to distinguish from actual memories. 3.2.1 Democratic decision making in schools create a conducive school tone or culture; 3.2.2 Parent involvement is crucial; 3.2.3 An Outcomes based approach is resource intensive; 3.2.4 Resources (computers and libraries) will make all the difference; 3.2.5 The department is not supporting teachers and therefore they are de- motivated; 3.2.6 Lack of learning is caused by the ill-discipline of learners; 3.2.7 Our classrooms are overcrowded (smaller class sizes); 3.2.8 It is difficult to achieve learner success in poverty stricken communities; 3.2.9 Learners are not at the level they should be when they get to our school (no pre-school or nursery training; can’t read and write when they get to secondary school); and 3.2.10 Teacher development will solve most of our performance problems (teacher’s lack of subject content knowledge, etc.). 10
  • 11. Often these untruths are covered within four arguments by dysfunctional schools, namely (i) Resources, (ii) Outcomes, (iii) Accountability and (iv) Choice arguments. 4. Conclusion My focus in this presentation was to reflect on what we, as teacherss, can do to turn around the challenges we face in education. With this, I am not saying that other stakeholders or constituencies are innocent, and teachers need to take all the blame. Not at all!! But what I know is that the changes in education, and particularly the success of our learners, will only happen through a collective effort on the part of teachers (the contributions of others are periphery). We can turn it around, we can make a difference, but it has to start from each individual within this room. Each of us saying that ‘I can make a difference’, ‘I will make a difference’ because ‘I want to make a difference’. Not because anyone else is forcing or compelling me. We do have that window of opportunity to turn it around ourselves. And it starts with what I call the ‘8 School Readiness Components’ (SRC) in our schools – Sorting out our (i) Attendance (both teachers and learners), (ii) Know and Understand our Teachers, (iii) Know and Understand our Learners, (iv) Do proper Annual Planning in order to implement those plans (not just for the department), (v) Have workable Timetabling that utilises the best teachers for a particular situation, (vi) Have proper Quarterly Teaching Schedules which are keeping us accountable every day of the school year, (vii) Have an accountable Organogram based on skills and capacity, not favouritism, and (viii) Ensure that we have, the first day of the school year all our Teaching and Learning Support Material. The detail of these 8 SRC and the 10 untruths will be a debate for another occasion. I thank you! 11

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