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Friday, 17 May, 2002

WCED proposes alternatives to Education Laws Amendment Bill

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

The Western Cape Education Department has proposed alternatives to draft legislation, which could affect the powers of governing bodies to appoint educators at schools.

The WCEDís proposals form part of a response to a call for comment on the Education Laws Amendment Bill of 2002. The deadline for comment was 15 May 2002.

The Bill includes a proposal allowing education departments to appoint educators to schools directly, where the educators are entering the profession for the first time, or are returning to teaching after a break in service.

I agree with the objectives of the Bill as far as appointments are concerned. However, we can meet these objectives without watering down the powers of governing bodies.

Other areas covered by the Bill include the admission age of learners, learner assessment, intermediaries in disciplinary proceedings, initiation, and codes of conduct for governing bodies.

Appointment of educators

The proposed amendment allowing provincial education departments to appoint certain educators directly, opposes the spirit of the South African Schools Act by substantially limiting the involvement of governing bodies in the appointment of educators at schools.

The proposal would also increase the administrative burden on departments to process applications, which would delay placing of educators at schools severely.

According to the Government Gazette of 11 April 2002, the reason for this measure is to make it easier for provinces to place new recruits to the teaching profession, or those returning to the profession after a break in service.

The gazette says that the Bill would place provinces in a better position to place these educators, especially in rural areas, where schools experience difficulties in recruiting educators.

"This process will ensure a fair distribution of well-qualified educators," the gazette says. "It will also assist in the placement of students in suitable employment, who have been awarded bursaries or loans by either the employer or the State to study."

We have recommended the following procedure, which does not undermine the powers of governing bodies:

  • Post level one posts are advertised.

  • The governing body recommends the successful candidate to the department for appointment.

  • The department lists all unsuccessful candidates who are first time appointments, and those who wish to return after a break in service, and who are willing to be placed where required.

  • The department submits the list to schools that have not been able to fill their vacancies.

  • After consultation with the respective governing bodies, the employer will place these educators accordingly.


Grade 1 admission age

The Bill proposes admission ages for Grade One six turning seven and five turning six by 30 June in the year of admission. The WCED estimates that this would result in an increased intake of about 30 000 learners in 2003, at a cost of R81-million. The department cannot support this proposal, unless funds are made available in terms of Section 35 of the Public Finance Management Act.

Curriculum

The WCED welcomes the concept of a national curriculum statement, and recommends that the Bill be amended to enable the national Minister of Education to determine the statement as a framework for curriculum development.

The WCED recommends further that greater flexibility per grade level in the Life Orientation curriculum should be allowed; and that curriculum development and assessment should be achieved by way of issuing norms and standards, and not by regulation, as envisaged by the Bill.

Intermediaries

We have recommended that intermediaries in disciplinary hearings be appointed by provincial departments rather than by the Minister of Justice, and that guidelines be issued on the skills, competencies and qualifications required for intermediaries. Intermediaries facilitate, for example, evidence given by children in child abuse cases.

Initiation

The WCED welcomes the proposal in the Bill to ban initiation practices, but has asked for a definition of the term "initiation practices".

Codes of conduct

We agree that there should be Codes of Conduct for school governing bodies, as proposed.

Legislation vs policy frameworks

We do not support the Ministerís intention expressed in the Bill to legislate on matters that were previously dealt with by providing guidelines in the form of norms and standards.

Policy frameworks can apply nationally to achieve uniformity, while still providing for flexibility that may be required to meet special circumstances in each province. This position is supported by the Constitution.

Records

A remaining clause in the Bill requires provincial departments to pay for written transcripts of electronic recordings of official proceedings. We believe these proceedings should be provided in the form in which the record was copied.


Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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