Teachers must take pupils' tests

17 March 2015 - 02:27 By Poppy Louw
NEW REGULATIONS: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga wants to improve economies of scale and teaching at schools.
NEW REGULATIONS: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga wants to improve economies of scale and teaching at schools.

The basic education minister wants the country's teachers to write the same annual national assessments as their pupils.

In a written reply in parliament, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed that maths teachers would be assessed every year, but when this would begin was yet to be determined.

Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said yesterday the matter was still under discussion.

The national assessments are standardised tests for literacy and numeracy for Grades 1 to 6 and 9.

"The main purpose of testing teachers would be to identify specific areas where teacher development should focus, but it definitely won't be this year," Mhlanga said.

University of the Free State rector Professor Jonathan Jansen said it would be "embarrassing on so many levels" if teacher competency was linked to the tests pupils wrote.

"The fact that it is even happening tells us something about the dismal state of education in South Africa," Jansen said.

"But it's the first time the department recognises that we have a problem with the state of knowledge of maths teachers."

The 2011 Southern and East African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality III report revealed that only 38% of Grade 6 maths teachers tested could answer a Grade 6 question correctly.

Professor Elizabeth Henning, head of the University of Johannesburg's Centre for Education Practice Research, said teachers who were serious about their work would agree to the testing.

The centre tests new primary school education students using a Grade 7 test to determine their primary school learning and provide intervention to get them "up to speed".

"We cannot make the assumption that all teachers are competent in the very content that they teach. This counts for all teachers, even in higher education."

Motshekga said the testing of teachers was in the government's Action Plan to 2014 Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025.

Democratic Alliance spokesman for basic education Annette Lovemore said every teacher should write the assessments for the grades they taught and "preferably for a few grades higher as well".

"Every teacher who cannot achieve at least 80% in the relevant test must be directed towards effective development, and retested after that intervention.

"Teachers who cannot teach mathematics must be removed from teaching the subject," she said.

Teacher unions Naptosa and Sadtu raised concerns over the plan yesterday.

Naptosa president Basil Manuel said while it made sense to test Grade 6 and 9 maths teachers, those in Grade 3 should be expected to know what they were teaching.

Naptosa was also concerned about the administration of the assessments , when they will be conducted and whether results will be used to inform development.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said it would be "demoralising to test teachers without first finding out their training needs".