11 February 2011
The government will focus this year on the three “Ts” – teachers, textbooks and time – in its efforts to improve and extend public education in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation address on Thursday.
“We reiterate our call that teachers must be at school, in class, on time, teaching for at least seven hours a day,” Zuma told Parliament in Cape Town.
“The administration must ensure that every child has a textbook on time, and that we assist our teachers to create the right working environment for quality teaching to take place.”
Zuma said the government will continue investing in teacher training, especially in mathematics and science. “We will pay special attention to the training of principals, particularly those in underperforming schools.”
To track progress, the government this year began annual national assessments in literacy and numeracy, that are internationally benchmarked, for Grades 3, 6 and 9.
These tests will be written at the beginning of every year to test levels of performance, based on what pupils should have reached at the end of the previous grade.
Through these tests, the Basic Education Department is hoping that teachers will use the individual results to inform their lessons and give them a clear picture of where each individual child needs more attention.
In the past, assessment tests were set provincially and administered at any time of the year. But from this year, all pupils in each grade will write the same paper countrywide in Grades 1 to 9.
Zuma said the government would work on expanding access to education, especially for the children of the poor.
“This includes the conversion of loans into bursaries for qualifying final year students. Students in Further Education and Training Colleges who qualify for financial aid will be exempted from paying fees,” the President said.
At the same time, Zuma urged state-owned enterprises to take on a greater role in skills development, saying this would provide much-needed technical skills for the country’s economy.