Improvement of Initial Teacher Education Programmes: DBE + DHET briefing

Basic Education

24 October 2017
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC) and Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committees on Basic Education and Higher Education and Training met jointly with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to review progress in the implementation of measures to improve initial teacher education (ITE) programmes.

The presentations focused on the purpose and context of teacher education, the trends and growth in teacher education, enhancing the quality of ITE through policy, the teaching and learning development capacity improvement programme, establishing a teaching practice/work-integrated learning (WIL) platform, the involvement of information communication technology (ICT) in ITE, professional standards, and the induction process.

The DHET said Funza Lushaka awards had benefited 5 016 (24.2%) of the 20 720 students in initial teacher education programmes during 2015, which was an increase of almost 800 over the previous year. To enhance the quality of ITE through Funza Lushaka, two key policies were in place. These were the policy on minimum requirements for teacher education qualifications, and the national education policy on the recognition and evaluation of qualifications for employment in education. Through the Teacher Education for Early Childhood Care and Education Project (TEECEP), the DHET had gazetted a policy on programmes leading to qualifications in higher education for educators and practitioners in early childhood education and care. The policy was published in March 2017. The Department had also supported the establishment and strengthening of three university-based specialist centres, each with a focus on a different area of special needs education.

The Committee was told there was a lack of consistency in teacher induction across the provinces. Critical information was not always available for new teachers and principals on their very first day of school and or leadership. Many new teachers and principals ‘figured things out’ by themselves. There was a false assumption that newly qualified teachers were well prepared for their initial classroom and school experiences. Research showed this period was predictive of success and retention in a teaching career. New teachers were more influenced by their first school setting than by their teacher education pre-service training, and well received and supported teachers had a better chance of success in their first year of teaching. A further challenge was that although higher education institutions performed well in providing student teachers with knowledge, they did not impart the same teaching skills which had been available at the former teachers’ training colleges.

Members asked about the success of the Funza Lushaka bursary programme, what was being done to attract teachers into the profession and make their working conditions more conducive, how morale could be improved, the cost of teacher education, and issues surrounding the strengthening of vocational education. 

Meeting report

Brief: Joint DBE and DHET

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG): DBE, said the Department felt honoured to come and present to the joint Committees on Basic Education and Higher Education and Training on the progress in the implementation of measures to improve initial teacher education orogrammes. Both departments were working together to realise the importance of Initial Teacher Education Programmes in education system of the country.

Dr Whitfield Green, Chief Director: DHET said that the purpose of the presentation was to present to the joint Portfolio Committees progress in the implementation of measures to improve Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes.

Dr Green said Funza Lushaka awards had benefited 5 016 (24.2%) of the 20 720 in initial teacher education programmes during 2015, which was an increase of almost 800 over the previous year. To enhance the quality of ITE through Funza Lushaka, two key policies were in place. These were the policy on minimum requirements for teacher education qualifications, and the national education policy on the recognition and evaluation of qualifications for employment in education. These were overseen by the national Teacher Education Programmes Evaluation Committee (TEPEC).

To enhance the quality of ITE through projects from 2015/16 to 2019/20, support was being provided to the quality research that was needed to inform the development work in a range of focus areas. Teaching standards (knowledge and practice standards/competence standards) for the specific focus areas within ITE programmes had been developed. These were used to inform the development of curriculum frameworks for the focus areas. There were well-designed comprehensive materials that supported the delivery of courses within the focus area. Assessment tools that enable the reliable assessment of ITE students and newly qualified teacher’s ability/competence in the area had been developed. Capacity development opportunities for teacher education academics involved in initial teacher education were provided. Ultimately, the main result had to be strengthened ITE programmes that enabled new teacher graduates to teach competently as beginning teachers.

Through the Teacher Education for Early Childhood Care and Education Project (TEECEP), the DHET had gazetted a policy on programmes leading to qualifications in higher education for educators and practitioners in early childhood education and care. The policy was published in March 2017. Provincial advocacy visits would take place between October and November 2017. Articulation workshops were in progress. The Department had also supported at least 10 universities to develop and offer professional qualification programmes for early childhood development (ECD) (from birth to age four) educators and other ECD professionals. Ten universities, in collaboration with three civil society organisations, were in the process of developing the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) professional qualifications. Knowledge and practice standards development had been completed. The curriculum framework was currently being drafted.

With the Teacher Education for Inclusive Teaching Project (TEFIT), the DHET had developed a set of professional standards for inclusive teaching which could be used to guide the development of teacher education programmes, modules and materials. Draft knowledge and practice standards for inclusive teaching had been designed and presented at a joint standards meeting with Primary Teacher Education (PRIMTED, TEECEP and the South African Council of Educators (SACE). It had supported the establishment and strengthening of three university-based specialist centres, each with a focus on a different area in special needs education. At the University of Pretoria (UP) there was education for learners with visual challenges. At Witwatersrand University (Wits) there was education for learners with hearing difficulties, and at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) there was education for learners with neuro-developmental disorders. The neuro-developmental specialisation had been submitted to the UJ faculty board for inclusion in the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree. A website domain -- Teachme.org.za – had been created and hosted in March 2017 by UJ. The Wits Centre for Deaf Studies had hosted a family-centered Early Intervention/Africa Developing World Conference. Two stories in Series 1 had been published for deaf children.

Three research projects in inclusive and special needs education had been supported, with at least nine articles -- three per research project -- published in accredited journals. Research on the implementation of Screening Identification and Support (SIAS) schools had started. A review of deaf education was in process. There were annual dialogue events which had been convened in August 2017 at UJ.

Dr Green referred to a PRIMTED project for developing new teacher graduates’ ability to teach literacy in English first additional language (FAL) and African languages, with a special focus on reading. An annotated bibliography for African languages had been completed. Development of knowledge and practice standards was in process. With regard to developing new teacher graduates’ ability to teach in number sense and in early algebra, a literature review on the conceptualization of number sense had been completed. Knowledge and practice standards were in process. In developing new teacher graduates’ ability to teach geometry and measurement, the DHET had designed a writing framework to guide materials development, and had developed and reviewed a set of core standards for geometry and measurement through desktop research. A draft conceptual framework had been approved by all provincial coordinators to develop new teacher graduates’ ability to think mathematically and to infuse their own teaching with a mathematical thinking approach.

Assessment instruments for use in primary teacher education had been developed, and a mathematics assessment tool finalised and made available online. Two universities administered the mathematics assessment with first year students, while one administered English language assessment. There had been development of curriculum tools to support the delivery of the work as an integrated learning component of primary teacher education programmes. Draft database prototype (WIL placement and administrative management) completed. There was a successful collaboration with University of Stanford and University of Central Florida.

Dr Green said that to establish a teaching practice/work-integrated learning (WIL) platform for ITE, a round table on teaching practice was convened on 27 July 2017 at the DBE conference centre. About 50 people had participated, including representatives from the DHET, DBE, provincial education departments (PEDs), universities, SACE, the Education, Training and Development Practices (ETDP) sector education and training authority (SETA), and teacher unions. The main outcome had been conceptualization of a teaching practice platform and a process towards putting it in place. The process would involve convening a series of working groups focused on aspects of the platform. Groups would be convened between now and the end of March 2018 for two to three days. The output of each working group meeting would be a framework document that described how that aspect must be built into the overall platform. The framework documents developed by each group would be collated into an overall teaching practice framework, to be presented to a representative group of delegates at a teaching practice indaba in April 2018, where it would be interrogated, critiqued and refined. Thereafter the plan was to take it through the various approval processes and to implement it.

Regarding the establishment of a University of South Africa (UNISA) ITE task team, the DHET had briefly worked with UNISA’s College of Education to review initial teacher education at the institution, and to develop an action plan to strengthen aspects of ITE. The task team was reporting to the Director-General of the DHET and the UNISA Vice-Chancellor, and was composed of Prof M Samuels (chair), Prof R Balfour, Prof J Aitchison, Dr N Taylor, Ms E Mokgalane, Mr G Coetzee, Prof V McKay, Prof M Mogano, Ms M Mathey and Dr Green himself. The terms of reference (TORs) had been finalised and approved. Two meetings had been held and work teams aligned to the TORs had been established and a work plan for the task team had been put in place. Data and information was being collected and analysed. The final report was due by 30 October 2018.

Mr Gerrit Coetzee, Director: DBE, said the Department had given support to SACE to develop professional practice standards for teachers in South Africa. In this regard, a steering committee, comprised of decision makers from SACE, JET Education Services and the DBE was in place and meets every two months. A SACE standards development working group (SDWG) was working on draft professional teacher standards (PTS). A joint meeting between the SACE SDWG, the PrimTED subject standards working groups and the inclusive education working group, took place on 30 August 2017.

There was a lack of consistency in teacher induction across the provinces. Critical information was not always available for new teachers and principals on their very first day of school and or leadership. Many new teachers and principals ‘figured things out’ by themselves. There was a false assumption that newly qualified teachers were well prepared for their initial classroom and school experiences. Principals could develop professional, management and leadership expertise on their own. Research showed this period was predictive of success and retention in a teaching career. New teachers were more influenced by their first school setting than by their teacher education pre-service training, and well received and supported teachers had a better chance of success in their first year of teaching.

The working area for the induction programme included an orientation booklet for new teachers and newly appointed school managers. The progress so far was that the orientation booklet had been made available on the website of the DBE and had been communicated with the heads of provincial education departments. In developing a comprehensive induction programme for all new teachers and school managers, the progress so far was that a research report on teacher induction had been prepared by the Centre for Development Enterprise (CDE). The DBE had supported the implementation of the “Inclusive Education Teacher Induction Programme” as part of the European Union-funded Teaching and Learning Development Capacity Improvement Programme (TLDCIP).

Mr Coetzee concluded that it was recommended that the Portfolio Committee discuss progress with the implementation of measures to improve ITE programmes, and provide inputs and guidance.

Discussion

Co-Chairperson Gina commented that the departments had good plans for ITE programmes, and asked about their progress.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) referred to the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme, and asked why the number of subjects a student majored in should not be part of the selection process. Were the departments looking at people with special needs, such as disabilities? What was the current demand and supply situation regarding the various subjects given at the Technical and Further Education and Training (TFET) colleges?

Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) asked why the centres of specialization could not be put in all provinces where students stayed.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked how much time was spent on the teaching content. What was the enrolment phase for Funza Lushaka?

Ms J Basson (ANC) asked for more information on the induction programme. Was there a database of teachers, and how many teachers had been trained in information communication technology (ICT)?

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked how the Department would ensure all teachers made use of the database.

Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked what the reasons were for centralising universities.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) referred to electronic learning, and asked how far the Department was in providing tools of learning.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) asked how the Department could improve the morale of teachers and the status of education. Were there any loopholes that affected the Funza Lushaka graduates -- were there any stumbling blocks for student teachers? How would ICT be incorporated in the education programme?

Ms J Kilian (ANC) said that it was good to see that there was a plan to improve education. It was critical to improve and invest in quality higher education. She asked what was being done to ensure the retention of teachers, what the percentage of drop-outs in student teachers was, and if there was enough coordination between national and provincial departments.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) said that student teachers complained to him about being loaded with administration work instead of teaching in a classroom. He asked how prepared student teachers were for the induction programme.

Co-Chairperson Gina asked what the role of the districts was in reviewing educational standards.

Co-Chairperson September welcomed the initiatives for Early Childhood Development (ECD). She asked whether there were funds for all the programmes planned by the Department.

Department’s response

Mr Mweli said the Department would make sure it reflected on the progress it was making against the targets set by the National Development Plan (NDP), the Sustainable Development Goal 4 and the Continental Development Strategy 2016 towards 2025.

The DBE agreed with the observations made by Members that historically, induction had been overlooked and this was why it had featured prominently in their presentation, because they realised the challenges that had come to haunt them since they had overlooked induction. However, in the last two to three years the Department had intensified its training of management team on inductions. In his visit to the nine provinces, he had been able to walk through training programmes that were carried out for school management teams. Other organs from outside institutions must come in to support the existing capacity building that happened within an institution. The best and most effective induction was the one that was carried out by the school management teams, which happened on an ongoing basis.

The DG said the DBE was working quite closely with the DHET, acknowledging that they were serving one system of education and training. They even had joint meetings they called Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM), which was the committee of provincial heads and national heads of education. They met regularly and these issues featured in those meetings, where they planned together and evaluated the progress they were making. Meetings of this nature were highly appreciated for addressing those instances where there might be gaps somewhere.

Mr Mweli referred to the question of whether there were sufficient funds, and answered that the money was never enough, but if there was any investment the government was making, it was in training. In fact, the amount of investment government was making in training the public service was enabling it to adequately utilise that investment. To be more specific, money was there for basic education, and the Workplace Skills Fund was used for training. There a sense that in some areas, the public service was sustainable for training, because they had been training since 1994 and in some areas they were even reviewing whether they needed to continue with the training or not. The point was that there were financial resources, and financial resources should not be a worry. Instead, they should just worry about the quality of the programmes and their impact.

The DG said the DBE had taken the advice of the Committee with regard to the involvement of experts and stakeholders in the areas of disability, and worked with an organisation representing the sector in South Africa. They could broaden that to involve other organised experts, like universities, but it would be important also to work with people who had experience of working in these environments, such as Mr Kekana, who personally experienced these things on a daily basis.

The DG referred to the question regarding strengthening vocational education, and said the DBE was working with the DHET with higher education institutions (HEIs). However, it was not easy to work with universities because one had to cut through their academic freedom and autonomy -- and Minister Blade Nzimande would tell how challenging it was, as it had landed him in court and other situations -- whereas in other countries public universities were there to provide for public good, and they were viewed as national assets. They were doing quite well in working with some of the universities who had accepted their proposals with open arms, and were really moving in terms of what had been presented to the Committee. For example, the University of Johannesburg had moved substantially in terms of working with the Department, even in the area of training teachers and officials on how to utilise ICT in teaching.

Referring to ECD, he agreed that the Department needed to look at the cost of the teacher education, some of which could be deflected to institutions such as TFET colleges. However, at the moment universities were perceived as the only attractive post-schooling institutions, so they needed to do a lot working together with the DHET and to ensure that they supported TFET colleges to be at almost the same level as universities for attracting learners into the system. Part of the weaknesses that had been identified was that learners who were drawn from schools, particularly from Grade Nine, seemed to be struggling in the curriculum that was offered at TFET colleges. Their view was that the competitive level of that curriculum was extremely high, which was why many learners were struggling with it.

Distance learning and teacher education quality had been addressed, because at one of their HEDCOM meetings it had been agreed that for initial teacher education, there could not be distance learning -- it had to be class room learning, given some of the qualities required of teacher education.

Mr Mweli thanked Mr Dirks for sharing his experience with them, because that was what made the DBE better when they received that kind of feedback. As already indicated by the co-Chairperson, there could have been various issues involved -- for example, a teacher could be overwhelmed because of the absence of a socialising programme in the form of induction. The Department also got complaints from old and experienced teachers about the administrative overload of assessments, which they had tried to reduce by the introduction of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). They would take this back and investigate so as to try to make the environment of teaching more conducive for teachers.

With regard to Ms Kilian's question of exposing teacher students to teaching practice, empirical evidence that was supported by some of the recent studies indicated that new entrants to the teaching profession seemed to be very strong in subject content knowledge, but not so strong in teaching methodology. This finding was not surprising, because universities by their nature were very strong on knowledge creation, but one would not get the same level of exposure in teaching practice that one would have had with the teacher training colleges, as they existed in the past. In their visit last year with the Minister in Zimbabwe, they had discovered that the Zimbabweans were much wiser in dealing with issues of teacher education, dealing with quality issues from the historic teacher training colleges compared to the universities. The Zimbabweans had taken a decision to merge teacher training colleges with universities so that they got benefits of both. The DBE believed that colleges might be best suited train some of the teachers, and they were working with the DHET in that regard.

The DG said the plan to focus on mathematics and science was the strong point of the presentation made to the Committee. Even at the foundation phase, the DBE was saying that teachers must focus on mathematics, science and languages, which had not been the case before. Historically, teachers could be trained on anything except mathematics and languages, but those were areas of focus for the NDP. The targets of the NDP were based on 50% of learners performing at above 60% on mathematics, science and languages, so those targets had been factored into the teacher training programme as well. This was an issue the DBE was paying full attention to going forward.

Dr Green said that in regard to Funza Lushaka, teachers were not performing. Firstly, the problem was that they were not properly inducted and properly socialised into the system. Secondly, the research indicated that they were strong in subject content knowledge, so they were working with universities and HEIs to strengthen the teaching methodology.

Mr Coetzee said they were really trying to boost the morale of teachers, and the National Teaching Awards was their shining example. The neighbouring countries had approach them, indicating their willingness to use the awards in their countries as well. Although all the teachers were involved, there were only a few who reaped the benefits. The Department was looking at various ways to improve the incentives for teachers, and a rural allowance was one of those. They had also started exchange programmes with other countries and exposed officials to them, and wanted to take these exchange programmes to teachers to increase their exposure, and also to motivate them so that they got to know that if they performed well, they stood a chance to be part of the exchange programme.

Mr Mweli said the figures for meeting the quantity and quality targets had been shared with the Committee, but in the past they had just been chasing the quantity aspect. Now the issue for them was to address both the size and substance, and in this regard the substance was the quality. It was about completing the triangle, and the triangle was the strongest mathematical figure. If one got it right, the country would be on the right path for delivering the education that would serve the nation.

The Chairperson thanked the delegation from the DBE and DHET for their presentations and responses. The Committee was looking forward to another fruitful engagement with both departments.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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