How To Improve Basic Education
Looking at the results by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which were released in 2015, shows that the quality of our basic education is poor, writes SAKHIWE KOKELA.
The results show that South African learners performed below average inÂ these international benchmarking tests. For example, out of 50 countries that participated in PIRLS, South Africa ranked among the poorestÂ performing.
Since 1994, each successive education policy such as the Outcomes BasedÂ Education, National Curriculum Statements and Revised NationalÂ Curriculum Statement, failed to achieve the expected outcomes. ForÂ example, learners who received good results in the school leavingÂ examinations of the Department of Basic Educationâ€™s NSC did notÂ replicate such performance in international bench-marking tests, nor didÂ they perform as well in universities or in relation to the demands ofÂ employers in the job market.
The main problem hampering South Africaâ€™s progress in reaching itsÂ education goals is its inability to deal with the implementation of the department of basic educationâ€™s policy. Currently, it is important toÂ strategically focus on improving the implementation of the latest policyÂ known as the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), inÂ order to improve learner performance and realise the Department of BasicÂ Educationâ€™s vision in relation to the countryâ€™s development goals.
The â€˜Implementation Evaluation of the National Curriculum StatementÂ Grade R to 12 Focusing on the Curriculum and Assessment PolicyÂ Statements (CAPS)â€™ report from May 2017, and my own graduate researchÂ (â€˜An analysis of the implementation of the Curriculum and AssessmentÂ Policy Statement in the Further Education and Training Phaseâ€™, JanuaryÂ 2017) present findings on the context of CAPS implementation.
The findings assist in understanding the CAPS implementation gaps. ForÂ example it reveals that in 18 of 24 schools in the study time managementÂ was poor. School timetables correspond, on paper, with CAPSÂ requirements, but in reality teachers do not consistently attend toÂ their duties in classrooms.Â Additionally, there are still materialÂ shortages, such as textbooks and calculators for Mathematics. Besides,Â there is still shortage of learning tools such as textbooks forÂ mathematics and calculators.
Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity in many schools about the use ofÂ assessments to improve teaching and learning. Literacy is an additionalÂ problem because a substantial proportion of learners cannot read withÂ understanding in any language, and writing skills are underdevelopedÂ because of inadequate instruction.Â Too often district officials areÂ blamed for not providing better instructional leadership. Teachers alsoÂ do not ensure learner understanding of subject content and concepts.
These materials shortages and competence gaps are costly.
Practices linked with teacher incompetence include inadequateÂ attendance to their duties among subject advisors and other DBEÂ officials, poor administrative leadership in the department, and the provision of teaching posts in corrupt processesÂ rather than on merit.
One implementation gap which could be easily fixed at little or noÂ additional cost would be to act against people in power actingÂ inconsiderately in their job. Therefore government should initially actÂ on such gaps. Unless these implementation gaps are fixed, the goodÂ intentions of CAPS will not be realised in the education system. TheseÂ gaps have been present in all of South Africaâ€™s post-1994 educationÂ policies.
Public officialsâ€™ skills should be supplemented with leadership skillsÂ and competency training which focuses on public service towards humanÂ development, thus establishing a more conducive environment for theÂ successful implementation of the National Education Policy. Fixing theÂ implementation gaps saves resources and improves the efficient andÂ effective implementation of the Department of Basic Educationâ€™s policy.Â The quality of education would then improve. For example, if theÂ implementation of CAPS is facilitated by employees with relevantÂ expertise including leadership skills and personnel who are committed toÂ implementing it accordingly, the implementation of CAPS would improveÂ and the resources allocated for the implementation phase would then beÂ used more efficiently.
If low or no additional cost implementation gaps persist under CAPS, itÂ will experience inefficiency similar to previous basic educationÂ policies. Learners will continue to be subjected to inferior and poorÂ quality education. The Department of Basic Education will continue toÂ lose important resources because of those implementation gaps, not leastÂ because salaries will continue to be paid to officials who lackÂ commitment, expertise, and leadership skills.
Sakhiwe Kokela is an Associate Researcher at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute, but writes in her personal capacity.
The views expressed in this article are the authorâ€™s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.