The role of law and policy in the professional security of grade R educators
Rossouw, Margaret Calldo
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In South Africa, the expansion of early childhood development was projected in White Paper 5 and Grade R was determined as the reception year. One condition for the achievement of objectives in Grade R is quality education, in which the teacher plays an irreplaceable role. How effective the Grade R teacher is in the performance of her work, however, depends amongst others on how she experiences her work-life and the extent of her security as a professional in the workplace. The paucity in research on the labour law position of the Grade R educator is due to the relative low status of employees in the early childhood development sector. Professional security was approached from a labour law perspective to start filling the knowledge gap in Education Law on the labour law position of the Grade R teacher with this modest contribution. The execution of policy forms an integral part of the Grade R teacher's employment conditions and determines to a great extent her daily task. This research answers the central research question: which roles do law and policy play regarding the professional security of the grade R educator? The research approach was qualitative interpretivistic in nature and included observation of Grade R teachers' workplaces, as well as semi-structured interviews. A group of Grade R educators in the Matlosana and Tlokwe areas in the North West Province as well as principals and heads of department in the Foundation Phase were also interviewed. Other stakeholders such as parents as members of school governing bodies, members of teachers' unions and university lecturers were also participants in the research. Data generation on a smaller scale took place in Ontario, Canada, where the respective roles of law and policy regarding the Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten programmes in professional security was investigated. All the data was used to understand and describe professional security of Grade R educators better, and generalisation was not the goal. The conclusion was reached that the theoretical underpinnings of the five legal disciplines that were used in creating a legal framework for professional security, were particularly relevant for the work-life of the Grade R participants in the study. Two psychologically oriented theories have also contributed to a deeper understanding of professional security. Although legislation, in principle, supports professional security, the extent to which participants had knowledge of relevant legislation or could apply legal principles to the workplace affected their professional security. Ignorance amongst policy-makers and employers about the nature and purpose of Grade R education leads to the underestimation of the Grade R domain, which negatively affects appointments, remuneration, conditions of service and policy implementation. Ignorance of the law also led to educator misconduct, and issues related to delictual liability emerged. Moreover, participants, due to ignorance, took the law into their own hands to create their own security in the workplace. Professional security emerged as a key issue in both ECD policy implementation and quality teaching. Finally a number of propositions were derived from the conclusions.
- Education