Education

KZN Education Department launches Subject Advisory Committees

Mail & Guardian Correspondent

A new initiative byt the KZN education department aims to improve matric results and foster teacher growth.

Dr Nkosinathi Sishi (KZN Education Department)

Eighteen years into our democracy and it is still apparent that the education system is struggling to break free from the legacies of Bantu Education. The infrastructure backlog inherited from the system of Apartheid is having a profound negative effect on the circumstances under which children are taught and learn.

The achievement gap between children in advantaged and disadvantaged schools needs to be closed. This requires systematic, focused and pointed attention to improving quality and efficiency at all schools. It implies attention to reducing the rate of repeaters and drop-outs.

It requires recognising that socio-economic constraints in our society put education in competition with many priorities in poor households. The creation of schools of excellence in our townships and rural areas must be considered as a serious option to improve schooling in these areas.

This matter cannot be delayed anymore!When the matric results came out for the class of 2011, the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department was bitterly disappointed: KZN’s matric pass rate had dropped from 70.7% in 2010 to 68.1% in 2011.On May 24 Head of Department Dr Nkosinathi Sishi announced one of the programmes of action he believes would create a better quality education: Subject Advisory Committees.

The meeting in Durban gathered 583 district-based subject advisors Sishi and his team hope will make a significant impact on the quality of education in KwaZulu- Natal.“We are serious about quality and quantity in education in KZN,” he told the Subject Advisors who had gathered to elect committee members and to talk about curriculum management and delivery. “Regard yourselves as having mobile offices.

I want you out in the districts, working with the schools,” he told them.Sishi said that the role of the subject advisors - who support teachers to make sense of the curriculum - is crucial, as they provide the interface between policy and practice.

They are the people who work most with teachers and have a responsibility for curriculum implementationIn each province education districts are demarcated and named and their staff complements are established by the MEC for Education, using powers granted in terms of the Public Service Act of 1994.

The powers and responsibilities of district directors are delegated to them by their heads of department or conveyed by administrative order.“Nine of the 20 districts considered to be poor in the country are in KwaZulu-Natal. Here socio-economic issues still determine the performances of learners. Many learners have to walk long distances and learn in adverse conditions,” says Sishi.

Model Schools
We now know, in no uncertain terms that a high quality world-class education system is our strategic objective – our ultimate goal. What we need to work out are practical steps to get us there.

The creation of Model Schools at this point in time seems to us to be the most practical way to go.The creation of these schools is merely a means to an end, a simple and practical way to make the system improve.

The department in the province of KwaZulu-Natal is taking its cue from good private schools, good former Model C public schools, good township school as well as good rural schools in our province.

Most of these schools are characterised by, among other things, the following elements:

  • Good and Complete Infrastructure
  • Effective and Efficient School Management
  • Highly Effective Principal
  • Quality and Result-Driven School Management Team
  • Dedicated Teachers
  • Highly-disciplined Learners
  • Supportive and Co-operative Parents
  • Proactive Civil Society
  • Progressive and Development-focused Department


The selection of criteria for the model school programme
The department at Head Office is working in consultation with District during the process of creating these schools.

Former Model C Schools
All former Model C Schools will be regarded as Model Schools because of their endowment with regards to:

  • Location
  • Infrastructure
  • Environment in and outside these schools
  • Established traditions, customs and practices
  • Resources available to these schools


These schools, however, require monitoring against set standards on various issues, viz:

  • Maintenance work
  • Effectiveness and efficiency of management
  • Work ethic and classroom practices
  • Class sizes
  • Supportive equipment and material
  • Teaching and learning
  • Results, however, must stabilise at above 95%


Township and peri-urban schools
In this category, Model Schools must be selected based on their past 4-year examination result record in matric. In primary schools, the selection will start from 2013 based on Annual National Assessment (ANA) results of 2011 and 2012. High schools that have stabilised above 88% must qualify. In the case of primary schools, different criteria or criterion could be worked out in due course.

Schools outside urban areas
Schools outside urban areas will be selected on the same bases, i.e. good performance over a four-year period for high schools and a two-year ANA results record for primary schools. Rural high schools must stabilize above 80% to qualify as model schools.

Package
All qualifying schools will receive Departmental Intervention in accordance with their needs, depending on (available) departmental resources. All branches are to be directed to factor in this in their budgeting and for full participation. The Ministry and the HOD’s Office will seek partnerships with the private sector whereby packages are worked out for qualifying schools over a period of time. After the first selection, reviews to be done on an annual and four-year assessment basis.

Interverntion
Packages in the main, to include the following:

  • Additional infrastructure allocation: Provide infrastructure of improved school facilities and resources to a minimum threshold adequate for attendance and learning
  • Improved curriculum packages
  • Upgraded managerial training and teaching skills for SMTs and teachers
  • Additional allocation of classroom equipment and material. The system must provide textbooks and learning resources to every learner.
  • Additional training on school financial management and resources
  • Department-sponsored school partnerships• Additional learner programmes
  • Interaction between the department and the selected schools will be intensified.
  • Coaching on curriculum: The Subject Advisors and Ward Managers should constantly visit these Model Schools to provide sustained support. Creation of a field force of coaches to visit schools and work with teachers in class on the effective delivering curriculum, is necessary
  • Twinning and coaching on practice: Instructional coaches who could be Subject Advisors or lead teachers will work with teachers to strengthen their skills in areas such as lesson planning
  • Incentives for the Principals to retain them for longer period in a school: The system must make a clear decision on rewards (monetary and/orprestige) for principals of these schools e.g. provision of car allowance, provision of a school bus etc. Such an incentive structure should also be extended to those teachers making progress towards improved level performance in their individual subjects. This would contribute to enhanced morale and subsequently continuous improvement of results
  • Collaborative practice among educators: The system can rotate educators amongst the identified Model Schools themselves in order to spread learning and varied styles of mentorship. This collaborative exchange between schools will enhance the performance of the school through facilitating the sharing of best practices between schools, helping them to support each other, share learning, and standardize practices
  • Good assessment systems: The department can closely interact with the schools to ensure assessments standards similar to Model C Schools or Private Schools
  • Provision of adequate administrative staff: The system should provide adequate administrative staff in these schools so that teachers and principals can focus on pedagogy and leadership rather than administrative tasks• Maintaining consistent improvement: Providing targeted support to schools.
  • Co-curriculum programmes to enhance social cohesion amongst learners as well as amongst staff


Where the department has already started making interventions involving any of the above, such schools will be put on the programme. In cases where interventions are at planning stage but can still be reviewed, this will be done. Currently, the MEC has selected two schools and has secured the help of two companies but these should be brought under the programme together with those where interventions have already been made.

Partnership with the Private Sector and Stakeholders
For the Model Schools programme to take off and to grow, broad partnership between the Department of Education, all stakeholders and role-players is imperative. Partnership between the department and the Private Sector is critical for the programme.

Conclusion
Making each school a site of educational excellence is the ultimate goal for the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Getting there requires imagination, serious planning, commitment of resources and the administrative and political will to make it happen. The time has arrived for us to build…MODEL SCHOOLS in KwaZulu-Natal !!!! 

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