Teacher unions, universities, government and civil society meet on teacher professionalism

Education experts and practitioners representing government, labour and civil society attended a seminar on professionalism at the South African Council of Education (SACE) in Centurion on 18 June 2015.

During the opening session the CEO of SACE, Rej Brijraj, reiterated the importance of finding a common understanding of professionalism and for stakeholders to identify simple, achievable steps that SACE and employers of teachers and teachers can take. The seminar noted the actions being taken by countries such as Rwanda, which has elevated teacher professionalism to a national project that provides for a national curriculum for ‘peace-building and social cohesion’ and targets practicing and trainee teachers.

Prof. Yusuf Sayed, South African Research Chair in Teacher Education and Director of CITE, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said “teachers, globally, are important in ensuring equitable and quality education for all and key to building peaceful, just, tolerant and cohesive societies.” An important question for South Africa is whether we should ask the same our teachers, who were once at the forefront of bringing down Apartheid, to contribute to building a new democratic and peaceful society. 

The seminar noted with appreciation that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is implementing a comprehensive programme aimed at promoting the national values enshrined in the Constitution and social cohesion principles that uphold global citizenship. SACE itself has adopted an impressive plan for repositioning teaching in South Africa. SACE is working on standards that will spell out requirements for entry into teacher training, induction and maintenance of teaching certificates. According to the proposed plan, new teachers will only be provisionally certified once they have completed their initial training and will only receive a full certification once the employer has confirmed that they meet the required practice standards.

The CEO of the NECT, Godwin Khosa, commended the steps being taken by SACE and the DBE and emphasised that these ideals can be achieved with the participation of key stakeholders such as unions, school governing bodies, parents and universities. According to Khosa, stakeholders have to be prepared to take courageous, although responsible, steps to turn good ideals into action. All teacher unions agreed to work towards improving teacher professionalism through joint-training initiatives and programmes that aim to improve accountability, professional flexibility in the classroom and the environments in which teachers teach. SACE was left with the huge responsibility of being the paramount guardian of the teaching profession – whose role will be to ensure the protection of the rights of learners, the employer and the teachers themselves. 

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