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The quality of teacher training needs to be beefed up before education standards can be improved, the Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.
To have schools with competitive literacy and numeracy standards and 80 percent of Grade One pupils passing matric, teacher training had to improve, DA spokeswoman Annelie Lotriet said.
Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on the higher education and training budget vote, she said the DA-run Western Cape provincial government had focused on “getting the basics right in education”.
In 2011, the province scored the highest pass rate in the country Ä a testament to this approach, she said.
“We believe the same emphasis on quality teaching should be applied to educators in the higher education and training sector.”
To improve the quality of teaching, teacher training had be improved. One of the ways this could be achieved was by re-opening teacher training colleges.
The department had long promised that this would happen.
The DA’s vision for higher education and training was of a system that equipped South Africans with the skills they needed to fulfil their true potential.
“This is a system that consists of committed and professional teachers, who can deliver quality education.
“It is a system that will facilitate a shift to a knowledge-based economy, and that can deliver the skills necessary to boost productivity and incomes.
“This is vital if we are to encourage economic growth and job creation, and deliver opportunities to all South Africans,” Lotriet said.
Speaking earlier during the debate, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said certain former teacher training colleges were to be re-opened.
“The basis of any good education system is the quality of its teachers and we continue to strengthen teacher education,” he said.
“We have ring-fenced R450 million for the 2012/13 to 2013/14 funding cycle to expand university infrastructure capacity for teacher education, and this will continue in the next funding cycle.”
There had been significant growth in full-time equivalent enrolments in initial teacher education programmes from 35,937 in 2009 to 41,292 in 2010, a 15 percent increase.
Likewise the number of new teachers who graduated increased from 6976 in 2009 to 7973 in 2010, an increase of just under 1000, or 14 percent.
Particular attention was being paid to the development of foundation phase teachers, especially African language mother-tongue speakers.
“In order to expand our capacity to produce new teachers, we will open the former Ndebele College Campus in Mpumalanga for foundation phase teacher education in 2013.
“We also plan to open one former teacher training college each in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape,” he said. - Sapa