By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Namibian teacher unions, training colleges and teacher-providing organizations all worked closely together to draw up and finalize a teachers’ standards qualification blueprint that will soon be submitted to the Namibian government for final approval. So said the director of the Namibia Qualifications Authority, Frans Gertze, during a New Era interview on Friday after a two-day conference of education experts in the capital. “The bodies participating in the programme over the past few months finally reached consensus on a number of outstanding issues during the conference. I am happy that the problems have been resolved and look forward to the end product, to be implemented within the next two years,” said an optimistic Gertze. By his own admission, the Namibian education system struggles with many and major problems with regard to quality service delivery. “Prior to drawing up the final document on teacher qualification standards, we did what we term a ‘scooping study’ into the most critical issues within the education system. The most serious ones were teacher education, performance management and the to-be-implemented teacher licensing system. We held meetings countrywide to get the widest possible inputs from practising teachers,” said Gertze, who expects the final document to be submitted to Cabinet in two weeks. According to Gertze, consensus was reached on several issues during the conference, particularly the complexity of language use. “The development and use of English is an essential area of teacher attention as progress through general education and beyond is dependent on awareness of English, especially in instruction. Even when the mother tongue is being used, English as a subject can be effectively introduced and enhanced in line with the grading scales. The introduction of an English language programme for pre-and in-service teacher development is a must,” he asserted. “The immediate aim of the project was the improvement of pre-service and in-service education of teachers through a focus of national standards. It had to be changed to make the system more user friendly. Furthermore, the proposed teacher competency assessment was considered the most critical in achieving the desired transformations through enhanced teacher effectiveness,” he said. In his opinion, all institutional teacher training centres will in future be compelled to bring the element of assessment into their training, an aspect previously ignored. “Matters of ethical behaviours and ethical practices, central to enhancing competencies, also feature high in the document. Not just corruption, but issues associated with favouritism towards some learners and manipulating results to make a school or region ‘rank’ better,” Gertze said. The so-called continuous assessment currently in use in schools has also been a bone of contention. “It is an area of mistrust by principals and parents alike. It seems that understanding of continuous assessment as a means to integrate assessment and learning, and of collecting evidence for summative reporting are not consistently well ingrained. There were many complaints that this system has not been properly implemented,” Gertze asserted. He further claimed that participants alleged that the curricula in the lower primary level of the education system are bloated and teachers are forced to rush through them, compromising effectiveness. The learning content volume precludes consolidation and the mastery of key skills and knowledge. Gertze claimed that the teacher standards qualification system is also aimed at regenerating pride in teaching as a profession. “A lot of support was given to the notion that standards provide opportunities to recognize competencies when the teacher acquires them rather than the standards being synonymous with the job description for the teacher in Namibia. We want to keep teachers in the classrooms for them to remain there and not to look for alternative employment. To achieve success, a system of incentives needs to be implemented to help achieve this goal,” a determined Gertze said.
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