11 March 2013

Good Intentions

Education, Part 8a

Good Intentions

The South African Council for Education (SACE), which is a registration council, has as a slogan “Towards Excellence in Education”.

Excelling what?

The Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC; see attached) has the slogan “Ensuring Quality Learning and Teaching for All”.

What quality is it talking about?

Do any of the stakeholders (Departmental Official, Teachers, Learners, Parents and Community) think that “quality” means anything more than “good”, or “nice”?

The intentions are good. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Five years after the QLTC was signed, the teachers are being victimised. The obligations of the other four named stakeholder groups are forgotten.

Yet it was the teachers, and the SADTU teachers in particular, who “came to the party” with “Assessment for Learning”, under the auspices of the Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute, created by themselves. The teachers acted to make the QLTC a reality.

SADTU’s 2030 Vision statement, passed two years later in 2010 (attached) commits to (among the many other bullet points), “creating, through our classroom commitments, a nation that learns and advances its civilisation.”

It goes on to say:

“The 2030 Vision represents a turning point in the history of SADTU and the pursuit of NDR objectives within the teacher community.

“The Vision is based on the view that we need to build a new teacher for an emerging South African society, rather than simply normalise something which was never normal.”

SADTU has taken repeated initiatives. The statement of SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign, already launched on 8 March 2013, is expected to be published very soon.

Let us hope that this new campaign will be the occasion for discussion of everything that a SADTU “Quality Public Education Campaign” can possibly mean, and indeed, of what the QLTC could have meant. Because if it just means, to those who hear it, “better than bad”, or “higher quality than low quality”, then we are no further along than we were with the QLTC so-called non-negotiables, five years ago.

Actually, far from needing non-negotiability, South Africa needs a negotiation – a dialogue – about the quality of education; that is to say, about the nature of education, and what it is for. Merely declaring “non-negotiability” does not convert what is quantitatively relative into something qualitatively absolute. Such a declaration only reveals a desire for firmness, while it displays a lack of firmness, a lack of concreteness, and equivocation between multiple bullet-points.

This course, so far, has explored what education might be, in its largest conception. We have found that the process of education is inseparable from politics, inseparable from from liberation, and inseparable from a struggle for People’s Power. The SADTU “Quality Public Education Campaign” can take this exploration further, and popularise the struggle for People’s Education for People’s Power.

If the battle for education is to be won, by the country, with the teachers in the vanguard, then SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign will have to open up the word “quality” in particular for examination, and not take it for granted as an unquestioned still centre of things, accepted by all, but show it up boldly as the actual site of struggle.

“Quality” in education has to mean, not a fixed thing, but the idea of change itself. Qualitative change is change in nature, which is revolutionary change. Quality not merely quantitative or marginal change, or “improvement” such as the QLTC “Non-Negotiables” statement mentions in its first line.

The purpose of education is to change the world, and not to reproduce the status quo. SADTU recognises this.

Qualitative education will recognise, as Lev Vygotsky recognised, that it is qualitative crises that mark the education of a child in its development towards becoming an adult. It will recognise that these intense but necessary crises cannot be adequately comprehended quantitatively (i.e. by numbers).

Qualitative education will recognise that the social life of adults, as a community, must also pass through similar, but new, qualitative, revolutionary changes, and that the preparation of children for life must therefore also be, quite openly and explicitly, the preparation of children as revolutionaries.

No other kind of education will do for South Africa. This should be the message of SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign.


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