NRF renews funding for teacher education Chair

Prof Yusuf Sayed, Research Leadership Chair in Teacher Education, says the renewed funding for the Chair from the National Research Foundation (NRF) is a testament to the hard work and effort of all members of the CPUT-based Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE).

“It is an affirmation of the support we have received from the university and faculty,” said Sayed. “It reflects a deepening of research at CPUT and the commitment and values of CPUT as becoming a research-intensive university.”

For the next phase the Chair and CITE will continue to deepen the work they have engaged with in the first phase which included developing new knowledge about teacher education, building research capacity and strengthening national, regional and international research partnerships.

“We will also seek to continue to actively enhance the impact of our research in the coming phase,” he added.

“I am pleased to communicate that the panel has recommended that funding for the Chair continue for the next five-year cycle and that this recommendation has been accepted by the NRF,” Dr Rocky Skeef, Executive Director: Reviews and Evaluations, wrote to CPUT recently.

Skeef also indicated in the letter that the panel’s recommendation outcome was reached by consensus.

CITE was founded in 2014 with the understanding that teacher preparation and teacher classroom performance are at the heart of enhancing education quality and ensuring that education acts as a vehicle for achieving equity and transformation in society.

CITE acts as a national, regional and international centre of excellence for research and policy dialogue about education policy and teacher education.

The specific objectives of the Chair are to:

  • Develop a rigorous and robust programme of research and scholarship to advance knowledge in the field of teacher education;
  • Support and build research capacity;
  • Bridge the current education policy-practice gap in South Africa and contribute to evidence based policy making;
  • Build on existing initiatives in the field of teacher education in South Africa and globally and;
  • Initiate and build a platform of research, research capacity, policy discussion, academic debate, and collegial collaboration pertaining to education policy and education in South Africa.

Teachers’ workshop seeks to improve learning experience

Various ideas to improve the learning experience and education quality were laid bare at a recent workshop attended by teachers, Western Cape Education Department (WCED) officials, teacher educators and education researchers.

Held by the CPUT-based Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE) in Mowbray, the Teachers’ Workshop was co-ordinated with the WCED Metro East District Office.

WCED’s Benjamin Schereka said the department has an outstanding relationship with CPUT.

Schereka added that these were challenging times for teachers as they are under extreme pressure to produce, but with very limited resources they do not know how to go about achieving their goals.

He argued that the Constitutional Court ruling which decriminalises private use of marijuana among adults will pose threats to schools that operate without a Code of Conduct.

He said the current climate at schools imposes general demands on discipline among the learners before citing two learners who were found openly smoking marijuana on school premises.

“This all impacts on the teachers. The question is whether the department is preparing teachers for that environment?”

Research Leadership Chair in Teacher Education, Prof Yusuf Sayed, said teaching a class involves making a series of complex decisions such as what to pay attention to as well as ensuring everyone is included.

After presenting an overview of the CPUT-based Centre for International Teacher Education, Sayed said its research agenda addresses who the teacher is, where do they come from, their beliefs and experiences of learning to teach.

He outlined the research projects that the centre is busy with such as AFLA, Continuous Professional Development and Teaching for all (a project about mainstreaming inclusive education).

Sayed said their research findings had led to a new conceptualisation of global and national education quality as well as teacher’s agency and policies.

“The disjuncture between policy and practice led to us having to identify key gaps in teacher education provision and education practice,” he said.

The workshop’s participants were later subdivided into four commissions to discuss new trends in teacher education.

Billions for teacher education are critical investment but more is needed

The recent budget proposals tabled by the Minister are to be welcomed in education. The allocation of schoolbooks within the medium term framework is an important step towards quality education. The printing and distribution of over 170 million textbooks over the next three years to ensure that grades R to 9 receive 2 books per subject in numeracy, mathematics, literacy, language and life skills – alongside the commitment to R4.1 billion to build and support public libraries – is also important. But these investments require qualified, committed, and motivated teachers. This is why we are pleased that the tabled budget recognises the need to increase the number of qualified teachers to 10,200 by 2017/18. The provision of 3.1 billion for Funza Lushaka bursaries for teachers is a further investment in the right direction as teachers are crucial to the strengthening of an education system that promotes social cohesion through and within schools across our country.

Increasing the number of teachers in South Africa and providing more scholarships for new teachers however must be accompanied by firm measures to enhance the quality of teacher education, measures that attract the best to teach, and ensures a conducive and enabling learning environment. At the heart of education reforms must be a commitment to quality teaching and learning to ensure inclusive growth, social cohesion and learner attainment. As such, measures to finance the training of teachers must be linked to systemic and system wide issues, one of which could be developing an effective deployment system to ensure that the most able and competent teachers are in the schools that need them most. Such an environment will require the building of trust and accountability amongst education professionals, who take pride in being members of the teaching profession and who provide a service that make them agents of positive social change and transformation.

The Minister’s announcements and commitments to education and teachers in South Africa come at a time when a new education agenda is being developed internationally for post-2015 to replace the current Millennium Development Goals. This is an agenda that is shared in South Africa and that seeks to place teachers, teaching, and teacher education at the heart of a renewed focus on education quality. It is also why, as the Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE) at Mowbray Campus, we have set about doing research that addresses a series of questions about who our teachers are, where they come from, what training they receive, where they end up on graduation, what support they receive as teachers on graduation, and what impact they have on the lives of the learners they are teaching. We focus on these issues because we believe that they will lay an important foundation for critical, evidence-based dialogue about policy work that improves policy implementation in teacher education.

Professor Yusuf Sayed
SARCHI Chair in Teacher Education
Director of Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE)