962 Education MEC, Angie Motshekga attends the 23rd ANCYL congress in Bloemfontein. 060408. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cape Town - Teachers would be given assistance to assess themselves so that they know what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, addressing the media before the debate on her budget vote in the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday, said a “tool” would test the content knowledge of teachers so they could ask for any training they needed.

“What are the content gaps that every teacher has?” she asked.

Motshekga said when she received the “dismal results” of last year’s annual national assessment testing, particularly at Grade 9 level, she asked experts to study them.

It was found the problem lay with teachers’ skills and their content knowledge. “Not all teachers have similar content gaps and that’s why we have to deal with it. When we do training we can target specifically.”

Teachers had trained at different times and at different colleges or completed different qualifications.

“Even when teachers’ content knowledge was good, the ability to transmit the know-how was sometimes a problem.

“Even if they know they are not able to pass that knowledge on to learners. And that is what that tool is going to say to us - content in terms of knowing the facts or communicating the facts to learners.”

Deputy minister Enver Surty said the aim of the tests was to assess, not to embarrass or humiliate, teachers.

They would “assist the educator in determining where the deficits may be and encourage them”, he said.

The tool was “non-intrusive”.

It would be helpful for teachers wishing to mark matric exams to assess their competency against what was required, Surty said.

Motshekga said teacher development was a priority of her second term as minister.

“The teacher development is going to be strictly informed by what we know, what our weaknesses are in terms of our system, and it is going to be systematic. If we want to do teacher development in the provinces, it is going to address what our targets are.”

During the budget debate, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer called on Motshekga to amend the quintile system and to ensure all markers for the National Senior Certificate markers in all provinces were tested for competence as soon as possible.

The quintile system ranks schools from most to least poor and is used to determine the funding each receives.

A number of schools have long complained they have been classified in the incorrect quintile.

The Western Cape is the only province that has implemented competency testing.

Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said: “It’s not having the tool that matters, it’s what happens afterwards that matters.”

Without necessary support structures, it would be “valueless”.

Cape Times