An Education Law perspective on quality service delivery of grade R educators
This research focuses on the role of the grade R educator who should know and correctly apply the legal imperatives and principles concerning her duty as educator, as key stakeholder in public education. Different rights and responsibilities in Education Law are applicable to the educator. This study is conducted in the field of Education Law, and investigates the grade R educator’s duty of quality service delivery in the South African context. A scarcity of scholarly work regarding legal perspectives related to Early Childhood Development (ECD), and specifically grade R, was identified. Grade R (the reception year) forms part of a broad term used for ECD that encompasses the development of children aged 0-9 years. Although grade R is not compulsory yet, since 2009, the Department of Basic Education has been establishing grade R classes in public primary schools to promote universal access to this grade. Legal sources were consulted in the existing legal framework starting with the supreme law of South Africa, namely the Constitution, in which the right to equality, human dignity, and education are provided for by the Bill of Rights. With regard to the grade R educator’s duty of care during all school activities, applicable common law principles are analysed. Court cases are discussed which impact on ECD education. Labour legislation is included as the grade R educator, as employee, has the right to join a union and participate in union activities and industrial action. The South African Schools Act makes legal provision for the admission age of learners as well as the duties of School Governing Bodies (SGB), which are addressed in this study. The duties of the SGB which compasses setting a code of conduct for learners, even as young as grade R, and providing a safe environment, are addressed. Specific policies regulating grade R such as the Norms and Standards for grade R, funding, universal access, and the quality of grade R education, are addressed. The quality of education in grade R is influenced by factors such as learner age, learner-teacher ratios, resources, parent involvement, educator training and appointments, which are discussed. The phenomenon of quality service delivery of the grade R educator is determined by her attitudes, beliefs and values. An interpretivistic paradigm approach and qualitative research methods were applied in the study. After purposively selecting twenty six participants from the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District, information was gathered through individual and focus group interviews and observations. An analysis of the empirical data generated during the study revealed that the grade R educator’s level of Education Law knowledge is unacceptably low, and that there is little real awareness of legal accountability. Unfair expectations from the school management team because of a lack of understanding the true nature of grade R teaching, influences the quality of education taking place in grade R classrooms in public primary schools. Recommendations call for grade R terminology to be universalised within the South African scope of ECD. A lifelong investment should be made in the well-being of grade R educators to ensure that they: a) comprehend and implement the legal principles of Education Law which call for accountability and creating safe environments for grade R learners, b) acknowledge and apply the essence of Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) regarding grade R when teaching. The overcrowding in classes should be urgently addressed. The quality of service delivery by the grade R educator is of critical importance to ensure quality education in grade R.
- Education