South Africa: No proper consultation on technology in classroom

“How far removed from the classroom are those so called experts and education policy makers?” Basil Manuel, President of the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa( NAPTOSA) asked this question when referring to ambitious plans of the South African authorities to bring technology into the nation’s class rooms. These plans have been developed without proper consultation with the teaching profession. The government speaks of providing tablets to all learners but seems to overlook the necessary professional development programs to help teachers use that new technology. Manuel made his comments during the opening of NAPTOSA’s fourth national congress taking place from 30 October through 1 November in Benoni.
While recognizing that the country is facing serious problems in providing sufficient textbooks to all students, Basil Manuel also questioned a government proposal to prescribe one textbook per subject in basic education. The use of these textbooks, to be produced by the Education Ministry, would be mandatory. Delegates expressed their concern about the one-textbook-policy, as it would seriously restrict teachers’ professional freedom. The timing of this debate is furthermore worrying as most schools have just invested millions to textbooks for the CAPS curriculum.

Too much assessment
The congress, addressing the challenges of quality and equity in education in South Africa, discussed problems that have arisen since a new national curriculum has been introduced in 2012 for basic education grades R through 12. Most teachers find the rules too rigid and with too much emphasis on assessments. Too often they have to work until late in the evening to mark tests. There is also discontent about the Annual National Assessment (ANA) which was meant to be a standardized test to assess the school system as a whole but which is now being used to grade schools. “As a result schools are tempted to teach to this test, rather than focusing on the curriculum as a whole.  Quality teaching and learning are suffering from the assessment spree,” says Basil Manuel.
EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, who attended NAPTOSA’s congress, told delegates that the privatization and marketing of education services are becoming serious obstacles to the achievement of quality and equity in our education systems. “It is an illusion that education can be delivered more cheaply and efficiently by the private sector – with fewer and less qualified staff, and a liberal dose of one-size-fits-all on-line programs and standardized testing,” Van Leeuwen said.

The NAPTOSA President Basil Manuel, warned the congress that the nation “must watch out for institutional decomposition”.  He expressed concern about ill-disciplined behavior in schools and also made reference to the recent disturbances in the South African Parliament. Not only learners, but teachers too do not always demonstrate discipline, he said, for example when they are not arriving on time in the classroom.  “We need to be disciplined in our branches and provinces. We must live integrity and give our NAPTOSA Professional Charter life,” the NAPTOSA President told delegates.
NAPTOSA is, with 67,000 members, the second largest education union of South Africa.

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