Parker, B (September 1998) 'Revising Norms and Standards for Educators' in SAIDE Open Learning Through Distance Education, Vol. 4, No. 3, SAIDE: Johannesburg
South Africa Contents

Revising Norms and Standards for Educators

In September 1997, the Director-General of the Department of Education appointed a four-person Technical Committee to revise the Norms and Standards for Teacher Education. The committee consisted of Professor Ben Parker (chairperson), Ms Sue Rees (deputy-chairperson), Mr John Gultig, and Professor Michael Cross. The task of the Technical Committee was to revise the norms and standards produced by the Committee on Teacher Education Programmes (COTEP) in 1995. In this article, Ben Parker reflects on that process.

Revision was made necessary by an array of new legislation and policy that directly affected teacher education, including the Higher Education Act, the SAQA Act and subsequent regulations, the Employment of Educators Bill, and the Further Education and Training Bill. The net effect of the new legislation was to establish a outcomes-based national qualification framework into which the new norms and standards had to fit.

The task of the technical committee had strong political, conceptual, and labour relations aspects. Politically, the process of producing the new norms and standards had to be as inclusive and consultative as possible. This required close cooperation with stakeholders in the early childhood development, adult learning, and workplace education sectors.

Conceptually, the technical committee had to find a way to understand and describe outcomes that achieved a balance between a generic and prescriptive approach that promotes portability and flexibility between qualifications and a conceptualized and specialized approach that promotes depth and provider discretion.

From a labour relations perspective, the new norms and standards had to provide a clear set of criteria for the Department of Education (DOE), as the employer, to evaluate and recognize qualifications for employment by the DOE.

Teacher education is part of the Education, Training and Development (ETD) field of the NQF. The ETD field also includes practitioners in adult learning, early childhood development, and general, further and higher education and training. There are approximately 450 000 teachers employed in public or state schools and, historically, they have dominated the field of educators. Twenty-one universities, six technikons and approximately one hundred colleges of education, provide teacher education in South Africa. Under the Higher Education Act, teacher education is being radically restructured in terms of governance, funding, and institutional location - with many colleges of education being closed or downsized. Within this broad context of uncertainty, the technical committee wanted to produce a document that would open the door to new ways of delivering teacher education and to increased mobility between teacher education and the other sectors.

The process followed by the technical committee can be divided into three stages:

September to December 1997
An initial stage of consultation with all stakeholders was undertaken a discussion document circulated to all providers and stakeholders

1 January to 30 April 1998
Using the discussion document as a basis, eight provincial consultative workshops were held, which were attended by approximately one thousand participants. In addition, over one hundred written submissions were made.

1 May to 30 September 1998
The discussion document was radically revised in light of the consultative process. A draft report was produced and circulated to key stakeholders in August, and was revised and submitted as a final report to the DOE in September.

The report is now going through various stages of approval within the Department of Education and it is hoped that the Minister of Education before the end of 1998 will declare it policy.

The conceptual heart of the report lies in two key ideas. First, norms and standards, and the qualifications that they include have three distinct dimensions: academic, professional, and occupational. The academic dimension relates to curriculum development and delivery concerns of providers.

The professional dimension is linked to the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and its criteria for membership and code of conduct. The occupational dimension relates to concerns of employer and employee bodies around criteria for employment. Second, a re-description of outcomes needs to be linked to roles and competences.

The technical committee drew heavily on prior work undertaken by:
a) the Education, Training and Development Practices Project (joint project between the Ministry of Labour, the National Training Board, and German government), which identified generic roles that are common to all educator practices;
b) the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), which developed and approved a set of appraisal criteria for state-employed educators;
c) the Department of Education, which has developed job descriptions for its various post levels;
d) SACE, which has approved a code of conduct.

All four initiatives draw heavily on the concept of roles and their associated competences. This enabled the technical committee to design six roles as being central to all teacher education:
•    mediator of learning;
•    designer of learning programmes and materials;
•    leader, administrator and manager;
•    scholar, researcher and lifelong learner;
•    citizen and community developer; and
•    learning area/phase specialist.

Attached to each role is a set of competences that are spelt out as practical, foundational, and reflexive competences, which, when integrated, make up an applied competence. An applied competence is defined as:

The demonstrated ability, in an authentic context, to consider a range of possibilities for action, makes considered decisions about which possibility to follow, and to perform the chosen action. Practical competence is grounded in foundational competence where the learner demonstrates an understanding of the knowledge and thinking which underpins the actions taken. Practical and foundational competences are integrated through a reflexive competence in which the learner demonstrates an ability to integrate or connect performances and decision-making with understanding and with an ability to adapt to change and unforeseen circumstances and explain the reasons behind these adaptations.

The crux of this approach is that it binds together the role-based job descriptions of the employer with the role-based outcomes curriculum of providers. In other words, the training of a teacher is directly linked to the occupational job descriptions that she or he will have to perform in the school and classroom.

A number of interesting conundrums challenged the technical committee. These included the definition of the term 'educator'. The Department of Education has given the term a legal definition in the Employment of Educators Bill - a definition which includes teachers and adult educators. There is, however, contestation by other ETD practitioners for their inclusion under the term 'educator'. For example, should trainers in industry be regarded as educators? Another conundrum lies in the division of responsibilities between the Department of Education as the employer and the South African Qualifications Authority as the body responsible for registering qualifications on the NQF. This conundrum can only be resolved by a strong cooperative linkage between the DOE and SAQA.

The technical committee has provided a clear framework for the future training of teachers in South Africa. There is, of course, as we know too well, a large gap between policy and its implementation. How successful the norms and standards will be depends on the development of high quality learning programmes by providers which are rigorously quality assured; the effective implementation of the Department of Education job descriptions and the ELRC performance management criteria and process; and the role of SACE in the development of professional educators.

Professor Ben Parker heads the School for Education, Development and Training at the University of Natal

South Africa Contents

Southern African Global Distance Education Network
A project of the World Bank's Human Development Network Education and Technology Team. Designed and produced by SAIDE.
Uploaded on: 22 June 1999