Westwood schools superintendent, Bietz, travels to South Africa as an advisor
One problem is a shortage of teachers and administrators, which is also a problem California is currently addressing. According to Bietz, in the year 2000 South Africa restructured its educational system and bought out their senior teachers and senior administrators.
“They created a huge vacuum and are short on teachers and administrators now,” said Bietz.
They set up schools to train administrators, which has worked fairly well, but eliminated many colleges that trained teachers, so they are trying to recruit them from outside the country, explained Bietz.
A second problem is the government does not have a national assessment program to evaluate learning.
Bietz said schooling is similar to California in that it is racially mixed. However, schools are set up in townships or neighborhoods that are not integrated. There are basically four racial groups living in South Africa with the majority black. There are also caucasions, racially mixed races and immigrants from India.
“They are proud of their individual cultures and do not have an interest in becoming a blended society. Education for some of the groups is not a huge issue. They don’t see it as an upwardly mobile kind of issue; they see education as a mandate until age 16,” explained Bietz.
The group visited a variety of schools including a private girls school, a math and science academy, a high school in a township, an urban elementary school, an orphanage and the University of Cape Town. During the week, they would visit one school site in the morning and a second during the afternoon where they would have an opportunity to talk to students and teachers. The group one weekend to sightsee during the two-week visit. However, their spouses were taken on tours while the group met with school officials.
Bietz said he learned schools are funded by the government in South Africa. The administrators at each site are given money to maintain the facility and purchase supplies. The amount allotted is determined by how affluent the region is, therefore, a school in Cape Town would receive more money than a rural school. Salaries are also set and paid by the government. They are based on the cost of living so a teacher in a rural area might receive $14,000 a year with a teacher in Cape Town paid $45,000.
The South African government wanted to develop a relationship with administrators to have an ongoing resource for advice on the development of an assessment program and addressing the teaching and administrative shortages, explained Bietz.
The visit was organized by People to People in the United States and the Spirit of Africa in South Africa. These two organizations also invited physicians and engineers to look at systems in their area of expertise.
Bietz said he came away from the experience really grateful for the resources in technology, curriculum and support services California schools receive.
“I said I would not complain about the revenue I get from the state after seeing how little for revenue the schools in South Africa really have,” he said.
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