Education policy roll out is haphazard, says Sadtu

New national curriculum changes are being phased in an uncoordinated approach, much to the frustration of teachers, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said on Monday.

In its national general council (NGC) held over weekend, Sadtu condemned the basic education department’s “haphazard implementation” of the national curriculum and assessment policy statement (Caps) and the annual national assessments (ANA).

The policies are part of the government’s strategy to improve the quality of primary education in the country. While the ANA kicked off this year and indicated that a majority of tested public education learners were battling with literacy and numeracy, Caps will be introduced in the foundation phase (grades one to three) and grade 10 at the beginning of 2012.

The concerns over phasing in of the policies that prompt curriculum changes have left teachers disillusioned about the time frames set to attain improvements. Sadtu, the country’s largest union with over 250 000 teachers, said the time frames are unrealistic because they “overload the system, which results in the frustration of the teachers who are already demoralised by the lack of infrastructural improvement in the schools that serve the majority”.

“Programmes are being brought in haphazardly and the timelines are not easy to fulfill,” Sadtu national spokesperson Nomusa Cembi told the Mail & Guardian.

“ANA is introduced and results should be there within a couple of months. We can’t achieve overnight,” Cembi said. “Too much is expected while we’re given too short time frames.”

Teachers’ training for teaching foundation phase and grade 10 pupils in line with Caps has been under way across provinces since June this year and will begin in 2012 for other grades.

‘Establish protocols’
The union said in its NGC declaration it wants the department to “establish protocols for communication” in schools and other training sites as a way of avoiding problems in rollout phases.

Carol Bertram, head of KwaZulu Natal University’s school of education and development, wrote in the M&G in June that the time frame set for implementation of Caps showed that curriculum reform was being rushed.

This week Bertram said teachers can only teach the new curriculum better if they prepare thoroughly for changes, but in the case of Caps “there has not been enough time”.

“Teachers have been dealing with curriculum changes over the last 17 years, they are now tired,” Bertram said. “If they have more time [to prepare, adapting to] that curriculum change can become easier.”

Departmental spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said they had noted Sadtu’s concerns and were ready to discuss it further before Caps kicks in.

“All labour unions agreed to policy targets, but if there are concerns, the department feels there’s still time to engage and clear concerns,” he said.

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