Gauteng Education MEC speaks about need for public-private partnerships in educationby TEACH South Africa
Gauteng Department of Education MEC Barbara Creecy delivered the keynote address at the TEACH South Africa dinner honouring educators at the Sandton Sun in Johannesburg, Gauteng on October 6, 2009.
During her address, the provincial minister of education argued that partnerships between the private sector and government were crucial if South Africa is going to meet the challenges facing the education sector.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to and honour those who were outside the formal education process and who are trying to make education better in South Africa,” she said.
Creecy said that she was grateful that there was such support from the private sector, especially at a time when education was a priority for the South African government.
“President Jacob Zuma has said that during this term education is a priority,” said Creecy. “We’ve developed a five-year plan in which we are going to attempt to deliver quality education, every day, in our schools.
“By the time learners leave our schools, we want them to have the knowledge, experience and skills to make the most of their adult life,” she added.
“The intention is to enhance and enrich what is essentially a resource-poor environment.”
Creecy stated that in 2008 the Department of Education had conducted independent tests on Grade 3s and Grade 6s. The results, she said, were not encouraging. Results in literacy and basic arithmetic were well below what was hoped for.
The MEC argued that while poverty and other socio-economic constraints played a major role in the poor results, students from economically poorer neighbouring countries were outperforming South African students in these areas.
While poverty alleviation measures were important, she said, this was not the most crucial challenge to address.
Among those challenges, she argued, were effective time management, having a unified plan and teacher education.
Time management, in terms of learners arriving at school, getting to class on time and actually covering the curriculum effectively, was a key challenge that needed to be addressed, she argued.
She said that studies had shown that successful schools had exceptional time-management practices.
She argued that another challenge facing the education sector was a lack of planning.
“You think that for a school the strategic plan is simple. Teach the students,” she said. However, she argued, in a resource-poor environment, it was crucial to have a plan to “help build a common purpose for that school”.
“I’d like to follow up with Paul Harris [who spoke earlier in the evening about where management skills could be useful for educators and education] to discuss how we can use business skills to help us,” Creecy added.
The MEC explained some of the initiatives that the government is putting in place, such as standardised workbooks to help educators assess how far schools and learners have progressed according to the curriculum.
Educator knowledge was another important area to be reviewed. Studies in Limpopo showed that only 55% of educators in the province were able to pass the independent tests that had been given to the Grade 3s and Grade 6s mentioned above.
Creecy argued that in terms of ensuring that teachers use their time for teaching rather than admininstration, there needed to be less bureaucracy
“I have been told that in terms of bureaucracy our province is one of the worst offenders. I, for one, will be doing what I can to ensure that teachers are using their time for what they should be doing, namely educating our young.”
Creecy congratulated TEACH South Africa for the initiative and said that public-private partnerships needed to be strengthened and widened to ensure that this initiative was sustainable in the long run.
She also said enhancing the status of teachers was another key goal for her department and for organisations such as TEACH South Africa.
“Without teachers there will be no way of developing our children or our grand-children,” she said. “We need to elevate the status of teachers. These are the people who will determine who will be teachers, who will be doctors, who will be street sweepers ... ultimately teachers determine who will succeed and who will fail.”