The NP believes in excellence in education, and that everyone deserves access to quality education.
You deserve a fair share, because it’s your country too. Every South African has the right to education and training that will equip them to take up their rightful place in our country and our labour force.
Education must always be in the best interest of learners, and must provide the human capital needed to build out the economy of our country.
All learners also deserve an equal chance to be educated in their mother tongue. The NP supports religious education and religious practices in schools. Furthermore the NP believes that more powers must be given to school governing bodies to appoint additional teachers and to decide weather or not the school wants to introduce a policy of corporal punishment.
The NP believes that parents and school governing bodies must get more power to decide on the functioning of schools. Our children’s safety in schools is also a matter that must be given priority attention.
Education standards in our schools must return to formal high standards, so that a matric certificate really opens doors to job opportunities and is not only a useless piece of paper.
IMPORTANT ISSUES IN EDUCATION
Access to free education should not be the yardstick – rather how equipped learners are after their school and tertiary education and how credible their qualifications will be. The successful absorption of its products in the labour market is the most important yardstick.
The NP is in favour of affordable, relevant, quality education for all South Africans so that they can compete equally in the work place – in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.
If we cannot succeed in training our own engineers, architects, medical experts, nurses, teachers and craftsmen, we will, like the Gulf States and other countries, have to use foreigners to provide in our human resource needs, and to keep our economy internationally competitive.
RATIONALISATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION
The current proposals with regard to the funding of combined tertiary institutions have serious consequences for the whole higher education system. It will however especially impact on historically Afrikaans institutions, because these institutions have to provide education and produce educational material in both Afrikaans and English. This causes a double workload and creates a need for additional administrative and academic staff.
The realignment exercise in tertiary education – with institutions with diverse academic cultures, and languages of instruction and lingua franca – poses immense challenges to new entities to maintain academic standards.
The success of the realignment process will depend on the State’s willingness to make available additional funds and to provide for long term state loans and bridging finance. Unfortunately, the National Education Department has thus far not given much attention to continuous requests from the ranks of these institutions. In fact, the impression exists that Government is currently underestimating the complexity of realignment, and especially the additional costs accompanying realignment.
As is the case in the business world, amalgamation initially requires more expenses from staff structures. Where some of the former components may have put a lot of emphasis on lower salary scales with performance bonuses based on research results and specific objectives, all institutions have not maintained the same amount of financial discipline. Salary scales and employment conditions of both academic and administrative staff are also completely different. With the unexpected sharp increases in staff costs and additional pressure on staff pension funds, it becomes an extremely complex amalgamation.
Government’s silence on the nature of financial support for the new entities and the unrealistic target dates set for implementation, cause great frustration and uncertainty. This inevitably has an effect on staff morale, which in turn hampers the establishment of a new campus culture and has the potential to create unnecessary friction.
The fact that the national department is dragging feet on important issues, which hamper short, medium and long term planning, will have an extremely negative effect on the education outcomes of these institutions. Other fears about increasing interference in the academic freedom of tertiary institutions undermine the morale and further contribute to tension.
The NP is concerned about the situation, and has already entered into talks with the Minister and the national department. We will do everything in our power to ensure that institutions of higher education remain the flagship of our education system. We cannot allow these problems to create continuous and unnecessary tension on the new campuses, and to eventually deal a blow to the institutions’ financial survival in the long term.
It is important that our centres of academic excellence get the necessary funding to ensure that the standards in these institutions are maintained, and that qualifications obtained from these institutions’ financial survival in the long term.
It is important that our centres of academic excellence get the necessary funding to ensure that the standards in these institutions are maintained, and that qualifications obtained from these institutions will continue receiving international recognition and respect. It is equally important that their academic freedom is protected.
South Africa’s institutions for higher education are a national asset that must be cherished and protected at all costs. Excessive centralisation and state interference in these institutions jeopardise South Africa’s ability to compete globally.
EXCESSIVE CENTRALISATION AND LESS POWER TO THE PARENTS
Even though National Government has an important oversight role with regard to education provision in schools in the provinces, over the past ten years it has been characterised by excessive centralisation of decision-making and policy development.
The consequences are that the national department is forcing down untested policies on provinces that are simply impracticable. Formulas for staff provision, target dates for the implementation of the new curriculum and other policy issues are often ideologically driven and undermine the provision of quality education.
Despite the fact that the role of parent governing bodies is recognised in legislation, the national department and some provincial departments ignore the role of parents in general, and elected governing bodies in particular. This creates extreme tension in schools where these departments disregard the important role of governing bodies in policy formulation regarding language and religion.
The NP believes in maximum parent involvement and participation in decision-making. The role of education departments is to see to it that school principals and education staff get effective assistance and support from the education administration.
Education is a partnership between parents, teachers and learners. A good education dispensation will recognise and support this, and will plan accordingly.
Parent participation and community involvement are key elements of healthy nation building. A Government that disregards or undermines that role, tampers with the fibre of society.
EDUCATION FUNDING AND MANAGEMENT
- School fees are becoming unaffordable for parents who have to fund building
maintenance, municipal service fees and additional teachers. The State cannot
merely shift its responsibility onto parents – not while large amounts of money
are wasted on glamorous functions, and lost due to bad financial management.
- Good education is becoming too expensive – each child has the right to be
within walking distance of a good school where the State is responsible for
affordable quality education.
- Flocking to schools in certain suburbs will only stop if all schools provide
- After fourteen years of democracy, lacking education planning and management
causes a growing gap between good and bad schools.
South Africa spends a greater percentage of its national budget on education than many other developing countries. However, our education achievements are still not on a comparable level.
Even though progress has been made in the past 14 years with the eradication of education backlogs, there is increasing concern about the bad management of our education resources. Through bad management and planning, funds and educational material often do not reach the poorest schools for which the money is destined. The maintenance level of the country’s education infrastructure is also alarming. Not enough money is allocated for maintenance. Many schools are also standing empty in certain areas, and are being vandalised.
The NP supports steps to make available more funds to schools in poorer areas. But we believe that the funding and staff provision models must be reviewed due to demographic changes in the country in especially urban areas. Particularly parallel medium schools need additional teachers and support to educate learners in their language of preference in separate classes.
With the flocking of the poor to cities, and due to growing unemployment, there are more and more parents who cannot afford to pay annual school fees. It is therefore now time to seriously look at additional funding for those schools.
To top it all, planning for the building of new schools in most provinces – with the exception of the Western Cape – is done haphazardly. Proper planning and research to determine where demographic shifts are taking place, is needed to prevent certain schools from running empty while others are too full.
Staff expenditure remains the biggest expense of the education system and therefore staff management and performance measurement should be a key element of budget management in education. This will ensure that we have a value for money education system. Unfortunately provincial education departments have for the past 14 years been unwilling to remove underperforming teachers and administrative staff from the system.
Good education must be accessible to all South Africans – rich and poor. South Africa’s single greatest asset could be its people and their expertise and skills, competing with the best worldwide.
Certain educational institutions have over many years obtained international status. While we are trying to bring other institutions onto the same level, we must also protect those centres of excellence.
An independent examination board for the grade 12 examinations is therefore an important instrument to guarantee standards.
The relationship between Umalusi – the watchdog over the performance of grade 12 learners – and the National Minister of Education is unfortunately not healthy for South Africa’s education system and its international status. It is not acceptable that the current chairperson of Umalusi is an official in the office of the National Minister of Education. It affects the independence of the Umalusi Board and creates a conflict of interest.
There is also serious concern about the high drop-out rate of learners – research has shown that up to 48% of 1992’s grade 1 learners have dropped out before they had to write the matric examination in 2003.
The NP is in favour of additional measures to test learner performance earlier in the system. This will make interventions possible to prevent large numbers of learners from disappearing from the system or failing matric.
The NP in the Western Cape has already seen to it that the reading and mathematical skills of grade 3 learners are tested. It is necessary that knowledge and skill levels of grade 7 and 9 learners are also tested on a scientific basis by means of countrywide performance measurement. Education standards must be on the same level countrywide.
Our country cannot afford to let the matric certificate – which is currently the only countrywide test for education standards – come under constant political pressure. It will eventually strip the qualification of any significance – not only in the workplace, but also as entrance requirement for institutions of higher education. We can also not afford to spend billions of rands every year on a weak education system.
Language policy in education is a flashpoint that has serious consequences for the language rights of learners and general education standards.
The department’s current implementation of the language in education policy is unacceptable. In practice, the country has only two formal languages of instruction – Afrikaans and English. The other nine official languages are only used as lingua fracas and as transitional languages for eventual English medium instruction.
Most learners in the country therefore cannot be educated in their language of comprehension and most teachers also do not teach in their mother tongue and language of comprehension. Research on grade 3 teachers shows that the teachers themselves barely function on a level higher than grade 3 in the language of instruction.
The lack of mother tongue education for marginalised communities impacts negatively on the achievements of those learners – especially in mathematics and science. Research shows that learners can never recover the lost information, and that large numbers therefore drop out before they can write the grade 12 examination.
The NP believes that the parents of parallel medium schools are currently unnecessarily burdened with additional expenses because the State is shifting its responsibilities with regard to multi-linguism onto them. We also believe that the department must drastically review its model for the allocation of education posts to prevent that teachers at parallel medium institutions get a double workload.
Language in education is and will remain an emotional issue – we only have to look at our own past. The NP will in the interest of the principle of mother tongue education defend all parent communities because it will have an irrevocable effect on our whole education system.
The NP will therefore demand the recognition of language rights – of learners and teachers – as contained in the Constitution and other education legislation. We will search for practical solutions to, in the interest of our children, defuse the language issue. South Africans must be willing to share – but everyone is entitled to their fair share.
MOTHER TONGUE EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS
The NP believes that mother tongue education promotes effective education and improves the quality of results. Research shows that mother tongue education establishes the self-confidence and identity of children, and that it is therefore specifically vital during at least the first six years of education.
During these development years learners must acquire basic language skills through which the necessary writing and reading skills are developed. The absence of mother tongue education hampers this process so that the literacy of learners is eventually negatively influenced.
Illiteracy is an important challenge in the struggle to speed up development and progress at national and provincial level. Research shows that the average level of reading and mathematical skills of our learners is rather poor compared to learners of the same grade in other African states.
Effective planning for suitably trained staff is one of the key functions of a modern education system.
The reduction in education students in tertiary institutions is however alarming – particularly the shortage of students and qualified education staff in subjects such as mathematics, science and technology. The national department also forces trained scientists to take up posts in schools without a year’s education training.
Studies have shown that schools with higher school fees for the additional remuneration of good mathematics and science teachers, achieve better grade 12 results.
The national Department of Education will therefo0re have to consider incentive systems to ensure that shortages in key subjects are supplemented.
Sufficient planning must also be prepared for the effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the education system.
There is great concern about the growing resistance against discipline in our schools. In some cases this can be blamed on teachers with a bad work ethic, and who are against performance measurement. In other cases it is due to learners who rebel against codes of conduct and structures of authority in schools.
There are many cases where departments have been delaying disciplinary action for years while school principals and governing bodies do not get the necessary support when learners challenge authorities in schools or openly break the county’s laws. The selective enforcement of punishment measures by the administration causes suspicion and tension.
The NP supports the Bill of Rights, but is concerned about the excessive emphasis on rights and the silence about the accompanying responsibilities. This imbalance must be urgently addressed.