The IFP’s principal goals in education are to:
- Raise levels of literacy and numeracy; and Promote technical, vocational and analytical skills.
- The role of the state is to ensure equal access to educational opportunities by establishing an enabling environment in terms of skills and resources.
- The state must not be the sole provider of education – at any level. Education is an extension of the social and training function of the family, therefore parents and communities must be the primary custodians of the education system. The state, parents, communities and employers should assume joint responsibility for education.
Pluralism is one of the most fundamental principles which underpin the IFP’s vision for South Africa. Pluralism implies not only the recognition of cultural diversity and richness, but also support for a range of different institutions which cater to the specific needs and desires of civil society.
The principle of pluralism in education has two major, and parallel, implications:
- Matters of government should be administered by the lowest levels of government capable of performing those particular functions, thereby bringing government closer to the people; and
- Maximum scope should be allowed for voluntary initiatives by the communities themselves.
In keeping with the IFP federal approach, the provision and management of education should be a provincial competence. All schools and colleges should be regulated in terms of provincial legislation. The role of the national Department of Education should be to monitor compliance with essential norms and standards. Teachers should be employed by provincial administrations on the recommendations of principals and governing bodies.
Apart from legislative competence over primary and secondary schools, the IFP takes the view that provinces should also enjoy legislative and executive power over tertiary education, including teacher training colleges. The IFP supports the autonomy of tertiary institutions.
Education should be financed from state budgetary allocations. However, state allocations should be strengthened by private sector donations and grants, which should be tax deductible. In addition to the basic form of funding, schools serving disadvantaged communities should receive money from a redress fund, which will be used to improve grounds, buildings, other infrastructure and equipment.
The IFP does not believe in uniform or nationally determined teacher-pupil ratios being implemented. There is simply not sufficient evidence that these ratios are such a conclusive determinant of quality to justify their enforcement. Under the IFP policy, however, school authorities would obviously be strongly encouraged to move closer to the average pupil-teacher ratios, depending on budgetary affordability and sustainability.
The IFP believes that one of the most important tasks in education is to improve the quality of teaching. Not only must the qualifications of under-qualified teachers be improved, but high levels of teacher performance and dedication should also be demanded. Excellence in the teaching profession needs to be encouraged by rewarding teachers who improve their qualifications.
In particular, the quality of school principals is one of the most significant elements in an educational system which achieves excellence. School principals have to master a much wider range of skills than teachers, since they have major managerial and leadership responsibilities. Hence a special college dedicated to the training of principals would be established, functioning to provide both full-time and part-time training of teachers wishing to acquire the more diverse administrative, co-ordination, planning, community interaction, negotiation and fund-raising skills required of an effective school principal. Such training would be a strong recommendation in the promotion of teachers to the ranks of principals.
South Africa cannot afford that the extension of education to those who have been previously denied and discriminated against educationally is accompanied by a decline in educational standards (what the Americans call the “dumbing-down” of education). This would result in black South Africans being doubly discriminated against. The IFP believes that one of the most important tasks is to improve the quality of teaching. Not only must the qualifications of underqualified teachers be improved, but high levels of teacher performance and dedication should be demanded.
The IFP strongly advocates the policy of a well structured In-Service Training programme for most practising teachers. This approach will compensate for low levels of expertise at the operational level of many of our teachers. In order to improve teacher participation rates in In-Service Training programmes, a system of incentives should be explored and implemented. Consideration could be given to the award of certificates of attendance which would count in the teacher’s favour in merit assessment.
A culture of learning, responsibility and authority in schools needs to be promoted. Discipline and orderly classrooms should be maintained.
Technical and vocational education
A major shift in emphasis from academic to technical and vocational high schools needs to occur. There is currently a dire shortage of skilled artisans and technicians and far too many university graduates in the Arts and Social Sciences. The State needs to actively encourage – inter alia through the provision of financial incentives – scholars and students to pursue studies in the areas of Maths and Science. A far greater percentage of resources needs to be channelled in the technical and vocational direction. Technical and vocational high schools need to be built and State and private sector bursaries for studies in this direction encouraged. In fact, a joint, collaborative effort between the State and private sector needs to be established in this regard.
Funding of post-school education
The IFP advocates a system of funding post-matric education. The government allocation of resources should target education and training in specific fields. After training, it should be possible to place the graduate into a job.
Language of learning
The IFP recognises that South Africa is a plural society in which a number of languages are spoken. As far as possible, children should be educated in the language of their first choice. The IFP, however, also recognises that South Africa forms part of the global community in which English is widely spoken and is the most commonly understood language. The IFP thus believes that English should be a compulsory subject, and that a second language which is widely spoken in a particular community, region or province should also be compulsory.