Teachers need to be taught
In response to Jonathan Jansen's column "Playing it forward" (October 3).
Nick Taylor, a respected educationalist and head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, set out to determine if the dysfunctional school system was a result of teachers who did not want to do their jobs, because they could not do their jobs. The overwhelming evidence presented in the report leans towards the fact that our teachers can't teach.
According to the Needu report (2013), the majority of teachers lack all three aspects of what teachers need: subject knowledge, knowledge of the curriculum, and skills to teach.
The Mpumalanga department of education took the lead in addressing the problem in 2011 by initiating a pilot programme in the KwaMhlanga region at 12 schools. Sants, a private higher education institution, developed the Holistic Integrated Programme with a focus on the basics in teaching: reading, writing and mathematics. The emphasis was on improving the teacher's subject content, curriculum knowledge and teaching methodology.
Teachers were evaluated at the beginning of the programme and a year later. The results for teachers who teach language in the foundation phase improved on average from 33% to 83%, and results of the intermediate-phase teachers improved from 38% to 80% on average. These improvements were also evident in mathematics. The results of the teachers teaching mathematics in foundation phase improved from 66% to 92% and intermediate-phase teaching from 54% to 87% on average.
The HIP's positive impact is evident at school level as well. Teachers are more motivated, dedicated and knowledgeable in their subject fields and have the know-how to teach.
Teachers now plan their lessons, use interactive teaching methods and teach from the concrete to the abstract, as they have been trained. Classrooms are now more learner-focused with informative, structured, planned and fun reading and maths corners. This creates an environment conducive to teaching and learning. Pupils' behaviour changed from being undisciplined to interactive, disciplined and focused.
Sants' opinion is in line with Jansen's, that the solution is to improve teachers' subject knowledge and their pedagogical skills to teach, starting at the foundation.
The current education context must be addressed as soon as possible to rectify the mistakes of the past. Lowering the pass mark will only worsen the situation.