28 November 2012

South Africa: Education Minister Motshekga Must Stay Committed to Testing for Subject Advisors

press release

A reply to a DA parliamentary question received today from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga reveals that subject advisors are 'not required to undergo testing before appointment' and are 'not required to undergo testing during their tenure'.

In light of research showing that a large percentage of teachers had low curriculum knowledge, and that their only source of support would be subject advisors, the competence of the latter is essential and must be critically assessed.

The importance of subject advisors to teacher knowledge and curriculum implementation is set out in the Department of Basic Educations 'guidelines on the organisation, roles and responsibilities of education districts' and includes the following functions:

  • Monitor and support the implementation of the curriculum in the relevant subject;
  • support teachers in effectively delivering the curriculum in the classroom; and
  • support teachers in strengthening their content knowledge.

The SAQMEQ (III) studies have shown that teacher content knowledge in South Africa is unacceptably low. Teachers could not answer straight-forward questions taken from tests that their learners were expected to answer. Only 38% of 401 grade 6 mathematics teachers could answer a grade 6 question correctly.

The support and development of teachers is crucial and as a consequence a subject advisor must be tested on the curriculum knowledge they are expected to impart to teachers who in turn will teach our learners.

In her response the Minister stated that testing and research is being considered and that 'such a move will require an agreement to be entered into with teacher unions'.

I will be writing to the Minister to request definitive deadlines for the assessment and development of subject advisor testing and that she act in the best interest of learners and not on the whims of alliance partners when making these crucial education decisions.

Annette Lovemore, Shadow Minister of Basic Education

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