Newsletter 58 How others view teachers

"Never do anything for a student that he is capable of doing for himself. If you do you'll make him an educational cripple...a pedagogical paraplegic" Howard Hendricks

The discourse about teacher professionalization highlights how others view teachers and their teaching. Here a compilation of opinions and views about teachers and teaching. YOU BE THE JUDGE! 1/4


  • Despite an education budget of billions, the system does not work, the DA told Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga 
  • “Despite a budget of R17.6 billion, and a slew of policies, your education system does not work. If you believe it does, I'm afraid you are in denial.
  • “Admit failure. Until you do, we will never make the massive changes that are required for this country to succeed.”
  • “You cannot continue to fail our children.”
  • “Sadtu immobilises almost any attempt to re-professionalise teaching and provide quality education,” she said.
  • Motshekga earlier told MPs her department had made peace with Sadtu.
  • Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty agreed “massive change” was needed in basic education. “Consistently, in the past three years, we have made progress,” he said.


  • Johannesburg - Pupils are not taught to think, to solve problems or to read independently because most of their teachers do not know how to teach these skills, it was reported on Monday.
  • The first national evaluation of how pupils in Grades One, Two and Three are taught showed that teaching was poor, that children's ability to read was weak, and that they were likely to struggle for the rest of their lives, The Times reported.
  • They found that many teachers did not know how to inculcate problem solving and analysis skills, and concluded that the “billions” of rand spent on teacher training and development in the past 10 years had failed to produce results in the classroom.
  • The department's development unit head Nick Taylor reportedly said teachers' poor subject knowledge was “arguably the fundamental problem in the school system”.
  • According to The Times, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in releasing the report that the department was particularly concerned about pupils' poor levels of reading, especially those in the first few years of schooling. – Sapa


  • CAPE TOWN - Thirteen percent of South African grade five learners from rural schools are illiterate, according to new data from the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU).
  • Five percent of learners are able to read at the required rate of 80 to 90 words per minute and most managed to score no more than 20 percent on a comprehension exercise. 
  • NEEDU CEO Dr Nick Taylor told 567 Cape Talk that some teachers are illiterate themselves.
  • “Many of our teachers are doing heroic work under conditions of extreme poverty. The problem really is most of our teachers have had poor education themselves and they don’t understand how to teach reading. It really comes down to that in the end.”
  • “We have an ageing teaching force, the large majority of whom were educated under apartheid under the old college system which subsequently has been scrapped. Many of them didn’t have matric. Although they’ve upgraded their qualification subsequently, that upgrading clearly didn’t teach them how to teach reading.”
  • Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2013/14 ranks South Africa’s education system as very poor, with the quality of its math and science education ranked 138th out of 148 economies.
  • However, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga believes the country’s education is improving.


  • Durban - The literacy level of South African Grade 5 pupils is a “national catastrophe”.
  • The consequence of pupils being taught to “parrot” rather than read independently was that, after five years of school, 13 percent of Grade 5s (11-year-olds) were illiterate and most were able to score no more than four out of 20 on a comprehension exercise, new data from the national education evaluation and development unit, has revealed.
  • Speaking in Durban on Monday, Nick Taylor, the head of the unit which reports directly to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said that, from the classroom research conducted in urban and rural areas, it had become “quite clear that most of our teachers can’t teach reading”.
  • This was despite several years and billions of rand worth of teacher training later.
  • Earlier this year, Taylor’s unit released the first national evaluation of how pupils in grades 1, 2 and 3 (the foundation phase) in urban schools were taught, marking a shift off the emphasis on Grade 12.
  • The upshot of the report was that pupils were not taught to solve numeracy problems or read independently because most teachers did not know how to teach these skills.
  • “As far as I’m concerned this is a national catastrophe,” Taylor told a meeting of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), at which he was the guest speaker, and which was attended by principals, school governing body members and politicians.
  • Taylor said it was “deeply disturbing” that in the classrooms visited by the unit this year, just 5 percent of Grade 5 pupils could read at the required rate of 80 to 90 words a minute.
  • In the urban Grade 2 classrooms the unit studied last year, it found that while the average eight-year-old was meant to be reading 58 words a minute by the end of the second term, and 71 words a minute by the end of the fourth term, this was not the case.
  • Instead, when the reading fluency of the top three pupils in each class was observed, researchers found that most were reading between 20 and 29 words a minute.
  • Teachers could no longer afford to shut their heads of departments (HODs) out of their classrooms, because if the situation was to be remedied, reading had to be declared a “national priority” and professional development needed to take place at school.
  • Taylor said that teachers were putting far too little emphasis on the ultimate goal, which was independent reading – children were simply “singing in unison”.
  • Despite teachers’ poor subject knowledge, the large majority of them were considered qualified.
  • In 1990, 53 percent of teachers held a teaching qualification. By last year, that figure stood at 96 percent. But there was a gap between qualifications and competence.
  • “While it was true that resourcing, policy and school leadership are all very important, once children are in classrooms, learning depends heavily on the teacher.”
  • Taylor said that the growth in the number of teachers who held teaching qualifications had been fuelled by the Advanced Certificate in Education courses, which were offered part-time by universities. But the courses had failed to address poor subject knowledge.
  • Turning to his recommendations, Taylor said that teachers’ unions would be key to turning the situation around.  They needed to help dispel the belief that for teachers to be monitored by their school management team was “about judging”. The notion that school managers should not visit classrooms was both “rife” and “disastrous”. “When teachers go into their classrooms, they close the door and that is their kingdom.”
  • Taylor said that as far as teacher training was concerned, afternoon workshops were “a waste of time”, and that district-based subject advisers were overwhelmed, being responsible for up to 300 schools.
  • “I want to promote the idea of in-school professional development. The HOD is the person on site who knows her teachers, who can help her teachers on a daily basis,” Taylor said.
  • Basil Manuel, the president of Naptosa, told the meeting it was “unacceptable” that HODs were not visiting classrooms and not evaluating teachers for fear of upsetting certain teachers. It was the core responsibility of an HOD to manage the curriculum and monitor its delivery, Manuel said.


  • Durban - The head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (Needu) at the Department of Education, Dr Nick Taylor, has called for reading to become a national priority.
  • An average Grade 2 pupil should read about 60 to 70 words per minute, but that is not the case for pupils at most schools.
  • As the pupils progress to Grade 5, studies show that some fall even further behind.
  • Taylor was speaking at the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa breakfast in Durban on Monday.
  • “The really disturbing thing about this is the number of learners who cannot read a single word.
  • “About 13% could read not a single word of that little test that we gave them in English. Now that is really, deeply disturbing,” he added. He said few Grade 5s are reading at 80 to 90 words per minute. “As far as I’m concerned, this is a national catastrophe,” he added.
  • Early this year, Needu released a damning report that revealed that the country’s failing education system was embedded in teachers who can’t teach and largely did not have a grasp of the curriculum, which is the fundamental problem. Their research was based on 133 schools they visited in the country.
  • “If the children are not learning to read by Grade 5, then what are teachers doing and what are the school management teams in those schools doing about assessing where the children are?
  • “How can they allow the children to be far behind after five years? Are they not watching them?”
  • The report states that too much time was spent on group and shared reading instead of individual reading and pupils also battle to answer comprehension tests.
  • Not enough books. He said they found in the majority of foundational classes that there were two or three available books to read over the whole year, and said children at this level should read a book or two a week at least. “No wonder they can’t learn to read. There are not enough books. That’s a major problem.”
  • He said school leaders should monitor pupils and pleaded with teacher unions to address the issue.
  • Taylor said the role of parents was also key in assisting children to read. However, he said the school was primarily responsible to see that pupils can read independently by Grade 2.
  • Naptosa president Basil Manuel said children should be encouraged to read anything, including food packaging such as cereal boxes, to improve their grasp of language.

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