Western Cape Minister of Education said it is vital that the proposed bill embodies accountability, transparency and innovation.
Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer proposed amendments to the WC Provincial School Education Amendment Bill two years ago.
Schäfer believes that if the province plans to be at the forefront of education, it is vital that the Department of Education remain “open to innovative ways of delivering education,” and have effective and efficient ways of assessing how schools perform. Schäfer said:
“It is a trite but vital statement that a child only has one opportunity to be in school. It is, therefore, crucial to ensure that every child has the best possible education that we can give them, or they miss out on it for life.”
It was vital that the proposed bill embodies essential attributes such as accountability, transparency and innovation. Therefore, the main focus areas of the bill should be the establishment of the Western Cape School Evaluation Authority (SEA).
As an alternative to expulsion, Schäfer also proposed that an intervention facility be established were students guilty of serious misconduct can receive assistance and guidance. Further to the that, the bill should include specific provision for Collaboration School and Donor-Funded schools, and enabling of classroom observation.
And the fifth focus of the bill would be to provide for an “exception for the prohibition of alcohol on school premises, on application to the Head of Department, for adult events after hours.”
Western Cape School Evaluation Authority (SEA)
SEA, once created, will evaluate schools independently and the reports will be made available to the community for the sake of accountability and transparency. She said:
“We want to assess the true quality of education in our system, in a manner that is fair, consistent and an honest reflection of how well a school is functioning, with a particular focus on teaching and learning in the classroom, not just compliance.”
Under SEA, schools won’t receive four weeks’ notice before an evaluation, but only two days, and all teachers will be evaluated. Schäfer says it will not turn into a “name and shame of individuals exercise” but rather to improve development.
Provision for Collaboration Schools and Donor Funded Schools
Schäfer said that the inequality of the past remains a barrier, despite the pro-poor funding of schools, and added that the answer to this problem is not just money anymore. She explains:
“It is undoing patterns of inequality that means that
1) children are less able to learn;
2) many teachers are less able or less willing to teach, and
3) school leadership is often weak and contested.”
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She said the new model will create opportunities for those in need and will assist the department “in the face of diminishing budgets and staffing.” It will lead to better management and governance at schools and will enable the use of additional resources such as social workers.
Intervention facilities for learners and classroom observation
Schäfer empathises that this isn’t “an old-style reformatory, but a short-term facility where specialist interventions can be given in the hope that a learner can be re-integrated into his or her school without having to be expelled and accommodated in another school.”
Specific provision will also be made for classroom observation by authorised officials, Schäfer said. She added:
“This is crucial. […] No longer will we be told that the Department that is responsible for delivering a quality education for the future of our country may not observe teachers in classrooms.”
Prohibition of alcohol on school premises
Schäfer pointed out that many schools sold alcohol to adults at events, and that many schools hold fundraising activities where alcohol is made available. She said “currently all of this is illegal” and added that the hypocrisy is astounding:
“It is not and has never been intended for learners to drink alcohol, and this can be a requirement in regulations which will be publicised soon for public comment.”
The Amendment bill was passed by the House earlier today, and the Provincial Parliament’s processes going forward are as follows:
Second Reading Debate on the Bill in Parliament;
Bill passed by house
Assent by Premier
Publish as an Act.
Schäfer said in a media release: “As a Government, it is incumbent on us to take deliberate and measurable actions to ensure the provision of quality education for children and I firmly believe that each of the amendments to the Bill will have a positive impact on education outcomes in the Province.”
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