Critical review of policy and provision of pre-primary education in South Africa (1925-1994) with particular reference to the Natal provincially/departmentally controlled pre-primary system (1975- 1994).
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The importance of quality pre-primary education is universally acknowledged in terms of the educational, social and economic benefits that accrue to the individual and society as a result of this type of educational provision. In South Africa, however, co-ordination, planning and funding of pre-primary education has never taken place at a national level. In terms of a policy statement made by the Minister of National Education in 1969, the four provincial authorities were given responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of pre-primary education, to be developed as and when the finances of the provinces permitted. The provinces opted for different types of provision and so expansion in this phase differed from place to place and almost exclusively benefited white children. In Natal, a highly successful system of provincially-controlled pre-primary schools was established, staffed by teachers employed by the Natal Education Department, whose salaries were funded by the Natal Provincial Administration. The money for the Natal pre-primary system did not come from the budget of the NED alone, but was supplemented by amounts transferred from other departments within the Natal Provincial Administration, authorised by the Provincial Council's 'right of virement' . The introduction of the Tricameral System, in 1986, led to the closure of the provincial governments and traditional sources of funding for pre-primary education were thus removed. Following the Government's declared commitment to move towards 'parity of provision' of education across all racially-based education departments, a new national financing formula for education was introduced in 1987. This consisted of a 'general affairs' component (applicable to all race groups) and an unknown 'global factor' which was still linked to 'own affairs ' provision. It was understood that the global factors would be equalised across race groups over a period of time. The main 'general affairs formula' was based on the number of pupils in compulsory education and did not include pre-primary pupils. This meant that pre-primary education did not receive funding or an allocation of teaching posts from this formula. The Government did not wish pre-primary education to become a 'general affair', because of the cost implications of extending provision to all race groups. As an interim measure, funding for existing white pre-primary education was included in the global factor relating to education under the Department of Education and Culture: House of Assembly. Bearing these factors in mind, this study attempts to: • outline the historical development of pre-primary education in South Africa. • describe the development of provincially-based pre-primary education, with particular reference to the Natal provincially-controlled system of pre-primary schools. • document the 'less than transparent' planning and ad-hoc decision-making that took place at a national level, as the government sought to divest itself of responsibility for provincially developed pre-school provision. • consider the implications of such decision making for the NED. Rapid political and social changes have taken place in South Africa in the 1990's, culminating in the election of the Government of National Unity in April 1994. During the past two years several policy documents on education have been published, which include options or proposals relating to pre-primary education. In the final chapter of this dissertation, some of the main policy documents are reviewed and areas of consensus are highlighted, particularly the need to: • transform current junior. primary (first phase) education by introducing a more activity-based, mediated learning approach. • establish state funded reception classes (Grade 0) for all children in the 5 - 6 year old range. • co-ordinate and upgrade pre-school services for the under 5's. The importance of funding, to develop and implement this policy vision, is stressed and the question of financial feasibility is briefly considered. Finally, attention is directed at the pivotal role that existing pre-primary teachers have to play in the development and delivery of teacher training courses (both in-service and pre-service) to equip people to teach in the first phase (Grade 0 - Grade 3).