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)

Pandor ponders education

The much maligned South African education system doesn’t deserve its entire bad reputation says Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor.

Pandor was the Minister of Education between 2004 and 2009 and says while a number of critical errors were made at the dawn of democracy the government is working hard to correct those now.

Pandor shared her insight into the state of teacher education in the country at CPUT’s newly launched Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE) last month.

She explained that teacher education is back on the right track thanks to generous bursaries for training totalling R1 billion per year as well as a new policy framework focussed on quality as well as the quantity of teacher graduates.

She says decisions that were made in good faith two decades ago paved the way for the decline in the education system which continues to plague the country now.

“An attempt to equalize teacher salaries (white teachers earned an average of five times more than black counterparts) saw an exodus out of the profession. We also decided to move teachers to underperforming schools and this failed with many opting for severance packages instead,” says Pandor.

“This upheaval meant it is hardly surprising that students did not look at teaching as a viable career.”

Coupled to this was the closure of 120 teacher training colleges and a wholesale change in the curriculum, all of which resulted in a teaching force stretched to the limit.

These challenges make the establishment of CITE and the various research projects it will undertake all the more critical for the future development of teacher training in SA.

CITE will provide research capacity development in this crucial field and assist the government in building a strong foundation for future dialogue on this topic.

The centre is managed by the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education Prof Yusuf Sayed and his Deputy Director Professor Azeem Badroodien- both respected scholars in this niche field.

Largest teacher education study launches at CPUT

One of the world’s largest studies on teacher education is about getting underway at CPUT.

The Centre for International Teacher Education  (CITE) was recently launched and is the first major initiative from the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education- Prof Yusuf Sayed.

He says the objectives of CITE are fourfold.

  1. To track teachers from the time they enter training to the time they graduate and start working.
  2. To quantify the billions SA spends on in-service training and understanding what value these programmes bring
  3. To move beyond the deadlock between teachers, government and unions and speak directly to teachers about what their career means to them 21 years into democracy.
  4. Finally to ask hard questions of what 21 years of policy changes and transformation has resulted in

“Cite will develop the new generation of teaching scholars and ensure that we continue to hear new voices in this dialogue,” says Sayed.

Researching teachers’ role in peace-building

One of the largest teacher education studies in history kicked off at CPUT recently.

The Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE) launched the initiative with a seminar on Education, Teacher and Social Cohesion at Mowbray Campus where research teams from participating universities from across the globe presented.

Led by Prof Yusuf Sayed, director of the CPUT-based CITE and also SARCHI Research Chair in Teacher Education, explained that the proposed study is entitled, “Engaging teachers in peace-building in post-conflict contexts: Evaluating Education interventions in South Africa, Pakistan & Rwanda.”

Funded by UNICEF and the ESRC/DFID Poverty Alleviation Fund the study is a research collaboration between CITE and the UK-based universities of Sussex and Bristol, University of Rwanda, Department of Basic Education and UNICEF.

Its overarching aim is to identify elements of education policy interventions that have enabled teachers to become active agents of peace-building in post-conflict countries, and that may inform future interventions.

In each of the three countries three research sites will be selected where the interventions are or were implemented in the capital city, a rural area and an urban location.

During the seminar Sayed unpacked the perceived roles of teachers in the South African context and discussed various dimensions on which the research will focus.