4. An overview of curriculum changes
During the 1990s, teacher education curricula in South Africa
underwent equally dramatic transformation. Apartheid education had created a
proliferation of curricula in the colleges and in the universities and
technikons. After the 1994 elections, college curricula fell under the
jurisdiction of the nine provinces. In order to exercise influence over
university, technikon and provincial qualifications the DoE exercised its rights
as an employer flowing from The Educator's Employment Act of 1994, The National
Education Policy Act of 1995 and the Labour Relations Act of 1995. These laws
laid the basis for consultation and negotiation between the employer (DoE) and
the employees (represented by unions) over conditions of service (including
career-pathing, workloads, job responsibilities, remuneration and other aspects
of the employer-employee relationship).
The 1995 National Education Policy Act (Act No 27 of 1996),
sub-sections (4) (f), (l), states that-
The Minister shall determine national policy for:
(1) The professional education and accreditation of
(2) Curriculum framework, core syllabuses and education
programmes, learning standards, examinations and the certification of
qualifications, subject to the provisions of any law establishing a national
qualifications framework or a certifying or accrediting body.
These powers, together with the authority of the Minister to
determine "requirements for employment" make teacher education a direct
responsibility of the Minister in a rare area where he actually has the
authority to act decisively, although this authority is weakened by the
conditional clause in (2) above. This is a good example of overlapping roles and
responsibilities. With whom does responsibility for national policy on teacher
education programmes and qualifications rest? With the Minister or with SAQA?
Which legislation has priority: the National Education Policy Act or the SAQA
In the period from 1995 to 2000, teacher education
qualifications were subject to the Norms and Standards for Teacher Education
which were declared national policy by the Minister of Education, Prof S M E
Bengu, on 8 September 1995. The Committee for Teacher Education Policy (COTEP),
a sub-committee of HEDCOM, had to develop norms and standards for teacher
education, to accredit teacher education programmes and qualifications, and to
advise HEDCOM and the Minister on matters pertaining to teacher education.
Membership of COTEP included, inter alia, representatives of all nine provincial
education departments, national teacher unions, student unions, directorates of
the national Department of Education, South African Council for Educators,
Colleges of Education, Universities and Technikons.
All public teacher education institutions were requested to
revise their existing teacher education programmes and to submit them to COTEP
and HEDCOM for approval. New programmes had also to be submitted in accordance
with the 1995 Norms and Standards for Teacher Education. It is important to note
that these regulations applied only to public providers. The 1995 Norms and
Standards for Teacher Education set in place a national core curriculum and a
process for accrediting qualifications based on criteria for the recognition and
evaluation of qualifications that supplemented the norms and standards (the
In February 2000, the Minister gazetted new Norms and Standards
for Educators (NSE) and these were supplemented in September 2000 by Criteria
for the Recognition and Evaluation of Qualifications for Employment in Education
(CREQ). These two gazettes indicate to all providers (public and private) the
kinds of qualifications (and the learning programmes leading to them) that the
DoE will consider for employment, and to the public providers, the kinds of
programmes and qualifications the DoE will consider for subsidy funding.
The norms, standards and criteria provide a "generic" picture of
a teacher and their required competences together with guidelines for the
development of learning programmes aligned with the new outcomes-based National
De Clercq (1997: 128) uses three concepts to provide a useful
analysis of South African education policy: symbolic, regulative and procedural
discourses. The Norms and Standards for Educators have a largely symbolic
function presenting a holistic picture of an ideal teacher toward which
curricula should aim. The regulative functions of teacher education policy are
carried by the CREQ and labour law and regulations. The procedural functions
showing who is responsible for what and how these responsibilities should be
carried out are indicated explicitly in key Acts: The South African
Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act of 1995, the National Education Policy Act
of 1996, the Higher Education Act of 1997, The Skills Development Act of 1998.
The broad argument in this paper is that the state has carried
out the first two policy functions competently in regard to teacher education,
but that there has been a breakdown in the procedural function. There is an
underlying assumption common to all these Acts about the nature of democratic
governance. In the afterglow of the constitutional negotiations, there was a
strong belief in the efficacy of stakeholder democracy and the ability of
stakeholders with different interests to reach consensus and make decisions in
"the best interests of all."
The overarching legislation referred to above splits
responsibilities for the "governance" of parts of the higher education system. A
public teacher education provider has to be "accredited" with the Higher
Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education (CHE).
This may also involve accreditation with other Education and Training Quality
Assurance bodies (ETQAs). The providers' qualifications must be registered with
SAQA through the SGBs and NSBs. The learning programmes leading to these
qualifications have to be accredited by the HEQC (or other ETQAs) and "approved"
by the DoE for funding purposes and for employment purposes.
These bodies are key decision-making points in the procedural
systems of academic policy, qualification registration, quality assurance and
funding. They directly impact on education and training providers and their
programmes. Unfortunately, in their early existence, the contestation between
these bodies and between different stakeholder interests within these bodies has
weakened their ability to make decisions and carry through their