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close this bookTurbulence or Orderly Change? Teacher Supply and Demand in South Africa - Current Status, Future Needs and the Impact of HIV/AIDS (CIE, 2000, 36 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMulti-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER)
View the documentList of Acronyms and Abbreviations
View the document1. Overview
View the document2. Background and Introduction
View the document3. The Demographic Characteristics of Teachers
View the document4. Incomes of Teachers and Non-teachers
View the document5. Teacher Turnover - The Dynamics of Teaching Employment
View the document6. Forecasting Basic Numbers
View the document7. Regionality and Micro-Regionality of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
View the document8. Concluding Remarks
View the documentAnnex

1. Overview

This paper1 explores five aspects of the factors that are shaping the supply and demand for teachers in South Africa. First it charts the nature of the South African teacher force and changes that have taken place in its composition since 1995. Second, it profiles patterns of income amongst teachers and makes comparisons with the labour force as a whole. Third, an analysis is presented of the characteristics of teacher turnover. Fourth some forecasts of teacher demand are generated under a variety of assumptions. Fifth, attention is drawn to the implications that flow from the uneven incidence of HIV/AIDS on teacher supply and demand. The last section draws together conclusions from the various analyses that are relevant to future teacher education policy.

1 This paper was originally commissioned by the Department of Education, Pretoria. Funding was provided by USAID. The collaboration of numerous colleagues, particularly with the provision of data, is also gratefully acknowledged. In particular, Carol Deliwe, Rian Cilliers, Ian Bunting, and Penny Vinjevold have provided critical data that are not otherwise easily accessible. Abt Associates, in particular Saul Johnson, provided the key demographic projections data. The commissioning of the paper was by Bobby Soobrayan and Pieter Morkel, whose role in motivating and guiding the paper is acknowledged. Errors and omissions in the paper are of course attributable only to the author.

The insights that are reported below are derived from the best data available to national government. There are many limitations to this data and its analysis and various techniques have been used to recognise these and generate confidence in the conclusions reached. These are discussed in detail in the monograph produced for the Department of Education on which this paper is based.

The picture that emerges from the analysis provides insights into current status and future needs that is not accessible through any other methods. It draws attention to the current status of the teaching force, how it is changing, and how it may need to change to meet new demands. It also identifies some characteristics of teachers that may not be widely appreciated and which contradict some commonly held assumptions.

In brief, the analyses suggest that:

1. Relative to the labour force as a whole, those employed as teachers are more feminine, work fewer hours, have much higher incomes, are more educated, are more unionised, and are increasing in age. Perhaps surprisingly since 1995 white participation in the teaching labour force has increased relative to participation in the working labour force as a whole, whilst that of Africans either decreased, or stayed constant in the teaching force, but increased in the rest of the working labour force.

2. South Africa’s education labour market has not been as turbulent as much public debate has suggested, at least in comparison with what we forecast for the future and in comparison with other countries. Entry and exit rates were relatively low by the late 1990s and followed fairly predictable patterns. Being a teacher, if one is young and not well educated, is relatively attractive, but if one is well educated and middle-aged, being a teacher is relatively unattractive.

3. Current teacher supply levels are very low by historical standards. Our analysis suggests that if supply is dwindling, it is not because individuals are acting irrationally, or because the incentives are quite poor, but because the demand is bureaucratically or budgetarily restricted, and individuals are reacting to the real probability of getting a job after exiting from teacher training under current conditions.

4. Forecasts of teacher demand and supply suggest a large and looming imbalance between supply and demand arising from the short term administrative measures taken to control enrolment in teacher training, and a collapse in willingness to enrol in training amongst potential teachers. These factors, coupled with demographic changes and the impact of HIV/AIDS, have created a situation where future demand is likely to be many times greater than current supply. This situation invites an urgent policy response

5. Our analysis suggests that addressing the HIV/AIDS-related imbalance in teacher supply and demand is possible, but very challenging. Some 30,000 new teachers per year would have to be trained. We offer some viable scenarios. Plans to insure efficient usage of capacity for teacher education would have to be developed. The cost would be very substantial, of the order of R3 billion per year at current training cost levels. Questions about the effectiveness of training programmes would need clear answers before committing such sums. Realistic decisions will have to be made about the support possible for HIV/AIDS orphans from formally trained and paid teachers. Any special arrangements for lower learner/educator ratios for orphans would increase annual demand for new teachers to 50,000 or more and escalate costs pro rata.

6. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is and will continue to be highly selective micro-regionally. Part of the planning response will need to allow flexible response by the system of human resource allocation to relative shortages at the local level. The current system is a mix of centralism (in its allocation of posts to schools and in its determination of the processes to be followed in assigning individuals to posts), and individualism and “participatoriness” on the other hand in the actual assignment of individuals. This approach has high transaction costs and may not be efficient or effective in a period of rapid and uneven changes in demand. New approaches would seem to be needed.

7. The systems for matching teacher supply and demand are facing a period of unprecedented turbulence. These seem likely to require more radical responses than those that were used to manage the system over the last five years. Our analysis suggests that the challenges are of a much greater magnitude than those of the recent past.