The Department of Basic Education is planning to embark on a pilot project of teacher assessments from January to March next year‚ Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday.
However‚ while the minister insists that the strategic framework for the assessment programme was negotiated with the unions in the sector‚ the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has denied any knowledge of the pilot project. The union has insisted that teacher assessments — which the department wants to introduce in a bid to improve the quality of South Africa’s badly rated education system — should not be linked to salary adjustments.
Sadtu spokeswoman Nomusa Cembi said on Tuesday that the union — which also fought against the introduction of competency tests for the markers of matric exams — was not aware of any pilot project for assessments.
Ms Motshekga said in a written reply to a parliamentary question by Democratic Alliance MP Annette Lovemore that trade unions had been involved in the formulation of the strategic framework‚ which was signed by all the unions in 2010.
She said the feedback from the pilot project would inform the implementation of the programme. Assessments in mathematics and English first additional language had been prepared.
The minister said the pilot assessments would initially take place at district support centres and schools but during the full roll-out of the programme teachers would be able to access assessments through the department’s website. The emphasis would be on the self-development of teachers and short courses would be offered to them. Teachers would use the assessments for "self-management purposes” and could use the information gleaned from them for discussions with supervisors.
Ms Motshekga said provincial departments and districts would undertake the assessments under the management of the national department.
"The roll-out will consist of self-diagnostic tests‚ thus the teacher herself/himself will manage the administration. The assessments are self-contained‚ user-friendly‚ web-based assessments.
"This is a computer adaptive testing model and thus the analyses will run automatically in the background while the assessment is being done.
"Feedback on these assessments would be instant after completion of the assessment. During the pilot stage‚ the analyses will be outsourced by the Department of Basic Education‚” Ms Motshekga said
Questioned about the 325 farm schools in the Free State that have only one educator‚ who fills the role of both principal and teacher‚ Ms Motshekga said the provincial education department was merging or closing farm schools with the object of keeping only "a reasonably smaller number”. Nationally‚ there were 549 farm schools with one educator.
She also said that amendments of the Schools Act of SA were planned to allow the minister to make regulations with regard to pregnant learners "as soon as circumstances permit”.