Teacher unions and educator professionalism : an education law perspective
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Despite the transformation that the education system has been undergoing, unionism at school level is still characterised by controversies that adversely affect education delivery. Teacher unions have neglected the significant meaning of their partnership with the national Department of Education in the sense that their activities are contrary to what their partner expects and; in most cases contravene the law and policies. From the transformation process and the legislative framework utilised to transform and democratise education, the South African education system should have yielded good results by now. However, professionalisation of education has been badly neglected as well as regulating unionism to adapt to progressive mechanisms and democracy. The character of South African education has not changed much except for registration with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) which is a legislated prerequisite for entrance into the teaching profession. To improve and to alter the education system, the Department of Basic Education should venture into adopting legal measures like writing board examinations just like the other major professions do to prospective practitioners. The character of trade unionism in general, has not improved as the country transformed. Unionism in South Africa has kept the vanguard status it had during the apartheid era as well as the militancy that characterised it then. The inappropriate involvement of teacher unions in politics and the interference during the filling of promotion posts attest to this. This may further de–professionalise education if it goes unchecked and unchallenged by the Department of Basic Education and parents. Teacher unions have a responsibility to ensure that educators are not victimised in any way. However, this study has confirmed that educators who democratically choose not to strike during public servants strikes and remain teaching in their posts are victimised. If teacher unions abdicate their responsibility to protect and pursue the career related interests of their members, they might cease to be effective as unions. Deeper understanding of Education Law might assist the daunting position in which the Department of Basic Education finds itself. This kind of understanding could be enhanced through training and development of principals as leaders in schools where professionalism and unionism phenomena are practicably visible. The government could channel funds towards this, as well as the South African Council of Educators. Conclusions drawn from this study suggest that despite the plethora of good legislation that the South African government has invested in, educators professional and labour activities are inadequately regulated. A few amendments and reinforcement of certain legislation that impacts on education could turn the South African schools into places of excellence.
- Education