Teacher Education: briefing

Basic Education

26 May 2008
Chairperson: Professor S Mayatula (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Education briefed the Committee on challenges that the education sector faced about teachers and the strategies that were designed to address inappropriately qualified and under-qualified teachers, shortages of teachers in certain subjects and the many new teachers who could not find permanent posts. The Department explained the objectives of the National Policy Framework on Teacher Education and Development and updated them on the supply of new teachers for the system. The Committee was then informed about the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme, which would be used to help increase the supply and quality of teachers.

The Department said that the supply of new teachers entering the system was increasing and that this upward trend would continue. However, the Department was concerned that many new teachers could not find permanent posts, as provincial departments of education kept employing inappropriately qualified and under-qualified teachers. In terms of teacher development, the Department was focused on subject advisers who would support teachers in implementing the National Curriculum Statement, bursary support to upgrade under-qualified teachers and developing primary and secondary school teachers. The Department was also involved in a Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) programme that looked at providing teachers with opportunities for continuing professional development throughout their careers.

Members discussed the implementation of the curriculum and immediate interventions that would be available to teachers if they struggled to implement the programme. They also looked at Human Resource management and development issues. The Committee was concerned that there were too many vacancies and too many unqualified and under-qualified teachers in schools. Members wanted to know why newly trained teachers struggled to find permanent positions and what the Department was doing to solve the vacancies. The Committee briefly discussed quality assurance of foreign teacher qualifications and the R500 million put aside for incentives.

Meeting report

The Department stated that the country’s challenges in education included the lack of appropriate qualifications by teachers, the poor conceptual grasp of the learning areas, poor understanding of and/or ineffective teaching strategies, inadequate numbers of qualified teachers in particular skills areas and poor training in the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS).

Since 1994, the Department of Education (DoE) had designed a range of strategies to address these issues. This included upgrading unqualified and under-qualified teachers through the National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE). Another strategy introduced Advance Certificates in Education, which allowed teachers to specialise in a subject or discipline, to retain a new specialisation and allowed advanced studies in one or more roles. Other strategies included orientation on the NCS for all grades and bursaries to attract new teachers in specialised and/or scarce skills areas.

The National Policy Framework on Teacher Education and Development provided a comprehensive teacher education system that included Initial Professional Education of Teachers (IPET) and Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD). The framework was committed to providing and developing more teachers and better teachers for the system. There were challenges experienced in the supply of new teachers for the system. Some of the challenges were that information on teachers’ specialisation in specific subjects and learning areas were not readily available and data on teacher education enrolments collected from the Deans of Education Forum did not provide information at the level of subject/learning area specialisation. The data would become available once the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF) was implemented.

There were a total of 32 981 teachers registered in the IPET programme. Some would receive diplomas or degrees while others were enrolled in learnerships or were already teaching. The DoE was committed to increasing the supply and improving the quality of teachers for the system. The Funza Lushaka bursary scheme was launched in 2007 to provide support for able candidates committed to teaching subjects in national priority areas such as mathematics, physical science, natural sciences, life sciences and English. Bursaries were also awarded to those that wanted to teach isiZulu, Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Tshivenda, SeSwati, isiXhosa and Xitsonga.

Evidence suggested that the supply of new teachers entering the system was increasing. The upward trend was expected to continue and the Funza Lushaka Scheme would be used to steer the planning for provision of new teachers. There were challenges experienced in placing 850 new Funza Lushaka graduates. Many new teachers found it difficult to get permanent employment, while inappropriately qualified teachers continued to be employed by provincial departments of education.

In terms of teacher development, the DoE was focused on developing subject advisers who would support teachers in implementing the NCS, they were providing bursary support to upgrade unqualified and under-qualified primary teachers and they were specifically focused on teacher development in primary and secondary schools.

A CPTD points system was established to encourage and support the continuing professional development of all teachers. The design would be finalised and a pilot study to test the design would be held in September 2008. The CPTD recognised three types of activities; teacher priority activities, school priority activities and profession/system priority activities.

The DoE provided bursary support for teachers to upgrade their qualifications through the National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE). Bursary support also allowed teachers to complete programmes that enabled them to specialise in mathematics and science and technology in the senior phase. The DoE was committed to ensuring that all teachers in the system became qualified and competent and a research project was being conducted to collect data on un- and under-qualified teachers in the system.        

A committee member noted that key challenges such as the lack of appropriate qualifications by teachers and the poor conceptual grasp of learning areas, were mentioned. These challenges could be addressed through Teacher Education. The Committee also appreciated that the Department was using a broad approach to address the challenges. There was a more important issue that needed to be explained to the Committee - this was the implementation of the curriculum. The Committee needed clarity on this. What support and immediate interventions were there for teachers who struggled to implement the programme? The Department had to address Human Resource management and development of teachers, as this was an area with many inadequacies.

The Department stated that if they did not have a more long-term comprehensive approach for the development of the NCS then the Department would continue with the short-term measures that they had embarked on. Foreign teachers had been trained and were given orientation on the NCS. The programme was supported by the training of subject advisors so that they could support teachers in the implementation of the curriculum. Training has been implemented across all provinces and over 1500 advisors were trained in all subjects. Subject advisors were trained for the Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and for the “Foundation Phase”. The training focused on content, curriculum and programmes of assessment. The Department provided subject advisers with activities to support assessment standards.

A Member commented that the training of teachers in the Foundation Phase was critical.

The Department stated that there were a number of people in the different districts that would support teachers. The role and responsibility of the districts in supporting teachers was known. A policy framework was at hand, however the Department did not have the resources to implement the whole programme. The Department had asked the National Treasury for funds to start implementing the policy.

The Department stated that Human Resource management and information about supply and demand of educators was one of their most important efforts. This was a consequence of the way the system had been changed. One of the challenges was that the Department did not have sufficient resources. The Department was asking provinces to ensure that the appropriate people were appointed as teachers.

The Department had budgeted for an HR management system and it was included in their strategic plan, however the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) indicated to the DoE that the HR system was to be developed across government. The system had therefore been delayed.

Mr R van den Heever (ANC) stated that the huge problems experienced in the education system was a direct result of not having enough teachers, having too many vacancies and having teachers who were not properly qualified. It was important that the Committee was informed of what was going to be done about this. He was concerned that there were still so many vacancies that were not being filled. The vacancies were also seen as not being “accurate”. He wondered if it was not possible to shorten the process of filling vacancies, as it was a long, cumbersome process that hindered the employment of teachers. He also wanted to know about the current interest in joining the teaching profession in South Africa. He asked if the Department had a specific target in mind of how many teachers they wanted to have in the country and what the impact had been of the measures that were taken to encourage people to join the profession. He also wanted to know if the Department was looking at reintroducing teacher colleges.

The Department replied that there was a whole range of quality teachers in the system, however many did not have the appropriate qualifications; they were unqualified or they did not have the appropriate qualification required to teach a specific subject. There were programmes that were being implemented to address these issues that would ensure that unqualified or under-qualified teachers became qualified. The Department was also focused on ensuring that there was quality training of teachers at higher education institutions. The Department and the Committee had to look at expanding institutions to include teacher education. Institutions did not have enough capacity to train the number of teachers that were needed. The Department had to ensure that the quality of training for teachers was satisfactory.

The Department was dealing with policy on the Human Resource department’s resources. The process of identifying a vacancy to appointing someone to fill that position was unacceptably long. The systems needed to be reviewed, as the processes were too long. The long processes hindered the Department from being responsive. Vacancies were a part of a decentralisation policy. Decentralisation meant decentralising information. The Department was looking at the process of appointment.

In terms of reintroducing teacher colleges, the Department was looking at whether there would be a sufficient supply of funds and whether they could provide teachers with quality training.

A Member addressed the issue of unqualified and under-qualified teachers. The government had dealt with this issue a number of years before. It took a minimum of two years for unqualified teachers to become qualified. It was worrying that the Department and the Committee were still discussing the issue of unqualified teachers, as this should have been sorted out years ago. The Department had not mentioned what they were doing with the production of teachers who would deal with all grades. This indicated that a turnaround strategy was needed to produce local teachers, as the country could not depend on foreign teachers. Why did qualified teachers find it difficult to find permanent teaching positions?

Thye Department’s response was that many educators had been made permanent. Also, there were many educators that were either unqualified or under-qualified that were being assisted by the Department. Unqualified or under-qualified teachers were not made permanent, however they were given temporary positions.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) asked what support and assistance the National Department of Education (DoE) was giving the different provinces.

The Department said that they recognised that in-service training was needed for teachers as well as the upgrading and strengthening of knowledge and skills. There were subject advisers who would support and train teachers. All provinces would appoint subject advisers. Training would be provided for subject providers in order to increase their competence. The Department would ensure that teachers were continually developed. The systems that would be put in place would allow higher institutions, non government organisations (NGOs) and competent people to be part of educational programmes. Teachers were being developed through quarterly quality assured accredited programmes. Teachers were evaluated on a point-based system where 150 points could be given in a three-year cycle. This forced teachers to continually improve themselves.

Mr van den Heever noted that the issue of unqualified and under-qualified teachers had been a problem for years. In recent years the Department has seen an increase in the number of temporary teachers. Qualified teachers did not want to fill vacancies in far-flung rural areas; they were then mostly filled by unqualified teachers. He wondered if temporary teachers were a phenomenon that would always be a part of South Africa and if the country could ever really be enthusiastic about eradicating the temporary teacher phenomenon.

The Department stated that there was a funding problem. They needed more funds from government to help under-qualified and unqualified teachers. There were also challenges experienced in rural provinces, where they did not have teachers to teach specific subjects. The Department was looking at a different approach to the problem, as there were teachers who had Masters degrees yet they were still seen as under-qualified. The Department was finding ways to deal with the problem more appropriately. Teachers were also being assisted with training.

The Department was looking at the quality of teaching in the Foundation Phase. The Foundation Phase was a priority area and was being monitored closely by the Department. The DoE was also looking at providing incentives to encourage teachers to move to remote rural areas. A team was to be set up to check on teachers’ qualifications.
A Member asked for more clarity on the quality assurance of foreign teacher qualifications. How would the Department ensure that the qualification was indeed up to standard and valid? Would teachers who could teach additional official languages, be recruited in the Foundation Phase?

The Department replied that the recruitment process included the Department issuing a vacancy letter. People then applied for the vacancy and the applications were sent to the school. The school selected and short-listed applicants and made recommendations. If foreign educators picked up the vacancy list and applied for the posts, then the Head of the Department would have to look at the selection process and determine if the applicant qualified for selection. Foreign teachers were to be recruited to fill certain gaps in the country’s education system. Their qualifications would be checked for quality assurance before they were recruited. There was a very strict recruitment process in place. Educators that spoke more than one of the official languages would be given preference. Applicants were given a verbal test. This was important to have in the Foundation Phase.

The Chairperson asked for a report on the R500 million that was put aside by the Department for incentives.

The Department replied that the money was part of its budget to be utilised for incentives. The R500 million set aside for incentives in all provinces could be used for teachers’ accommodation, specifically in rural areas. Money could be given to provinces to recruit teachers if a certain number of available posts were guaranteed.

A Member asked what the actual allocation was in the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme for bursaries. She commented that she was disappointed at the quality of education at some schools and that the vacancy issue had not been solved.

The Department explained that they had made a request to Treasury and had expected to fund at least 120 students with the money that they were given. The Department was actually able to fund more than 120 students. These bursaries were meant to be “full cost” bursaries where students could buy what they needed, however the Department had found that some institutions gave the students less funds than they were supposed to get. Teachers took four years to complete their teaching courses. They were given funds at any level of their training. 

Meeting ended.

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