File picture: Pexels
File picture: Pexels

Young teachers better, more affordable for state - Education department report

By BONGANI NKOSI Time of article published Dec 17, 2019

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Johannesburg - Nailing its colours to the mast that it favoured replacing older teachers with younger ones, the Department of Basic Education says the new crop teach better than the veterans.

The department’s newly released report looking into the progress of the basic education sector over the past 25 years also does not keep a secret that the younger generation of teachers were favoured because they were affordable to the state.

Voicing concern over what it said were “large increases” in teacher pay over the years, the department said it was counter-productive that provinces spent 80% of their budgets on salaries. There were thousands of young teachers seeking employment, some resorting to taking up low-paying posts at independent schools.

Between 2007 and 2017, the Basic Education Department awarded over 120000 bursaries at a cost of R7.21billion to prospective teachers through its Funza Lushaka programme.

“The ageing workforce in conjunction with the rising unit costs of teacher salaries has placed immense pressure on provincial expenditure - leading to the instability of provinces to spend more on learning activities,” said the report said. “The expected increase in the number of young teachers would reduce the average cost of an educator in real terms, as younger educators cost less than older educators due to experience-related remuneration benefits.

“Further, evidence has pointed to younger teachers being better equipped to teach than their older peers who received their initial training in the previous system,” said the report..

“Results from maths and language teacher tests in SEACMEQ 2007 and 2013 (reports) point to younger teachers displaying a level of subject knowledge which was considerably higher than that of older teachers.

“It is likely that stronger subject knowledge among younger teachers would have played some role in improving outcomes for learners.

“Yet the systemic impact of this would be limited as it takes time for older teachers to be replaced by younger teachers,” said the report.

It pointed out that the wage bill started ballooning in the mid-1990s when salaries of African teachers holding degrees were increased by about 25% to bring them on par with those of their white counterparts.

“More recently there has been further large increases, with the average salary of teachers increasing by about 28% in real terms between 2007 and 2012,” said the department.

“Although these increases have been a positive development from an educational perspective, the increases have limited provincial departments in their ability to hire more educators and spend on non-personnel items.”

But Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), on Monday accused the department of driving a narrative intended to manipulate the public to support the state’s austerity agenda.

“It’s worrying us that this narrative is gaining traction. But people must know that the truth is that the department wants a lower wage bill,” said Maluleke. “It’s not love for the children, nor love for the younger teachers. They are trying to address a budgetary problem. As long as they can save money, it’s better for them.”

Maluleke added that the older generation of teachers were working very well together. “They must not try to drive a wedge between the older generation and the younger generation.

“There are complementary roles that the younger and older generations are playing in the system,” he said. “The older generation were trained differently. But they built this country."

Elijah Mhlanga, the department’s spokesperson, denied that there was an underhanded plan to push out older teachers. He said they were leaving the system “naturally”. There are about 11000 teachers exiting every year. More than half of those were due to retirement,” he said.

The experienced teachers continued to contribute immensely to public education, Mhlanga said. “We never said they are not wanted.

“We appreciate them, but when retirement comes you need to go and rest and make way for other people.”

@BonganiNkosi87

The Star

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