|Face-to-face Initial Teacher Education Degree Programme at the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa (CIE, 2002, 57 p.)|
This report indicates that the University of Durban-Westville School of Educational Studies certainly represents one of the universities which have actively engaged with transforming the teacher educational curriculum in order to meet the challenges of the post-apartheid society. It has the potential to offer good quality PRESET education. It has recruited student teachers from within the African rural communities into their programmes and simultaneously reformed its curriculum to acknowledge the resources that such students bring into the programme. Rather than simply treating students as deficits/burdens to the teacher education curriculum, the programmes acknowledge the kinds of heritages that students bring with them from apartheid secondary and primary schooling. The programmes attempt to challenge these heritages with the view to extend the teacher professional educator such that they are able to consciously develop conceptions of their active role in reconstructing the society. The student teachers are being introduced to the benefits of critical reflective practice, which attempts to develop students to become articulate about their own personal working theories about teaching and learning.
The model of critical reflective practice is developed to a fair degree of complexity in the teacher education programmes. The students emerge being able to critique their own learning and professional development, are able to recognise options for practice in their own school contexts, but do not necessarily have all the sophisticated subject matter knowledge base that may be required for in-depth quality education amongst learners in the school. Students generally experience the curriculum as a valuable contribution to their professional development. However they would like to see the curriculum concentrate more on practical work rather than abstract theorising about education. The design of the new curricula for PRESET at degree and postgraduate certificate level attempts to capture a more balanced and integrated focus encapsulating various dimensions of teacher professional knowledge.
An important concern of the university is about the drop in students enrolling to become teachers. The large drop in PRESET student numbers entering the university programme is symptomatic of the declining status of the teaching profession within the society as a whole. The embattled status of the teacher in the policy environment of reconstruction has burdened teachers with simultaneously dealing with several changes to their daily worlds of classrooms and schools. It is now the responsibility of the Department of Education and the university to create the necessary incentives for students to enter teaching as a career. These incentives could include:
· The offering of bursaries to desired prospective students;
· The development of systemic intervention (at policy and practical implementation levels) to support a school partnership model of teacher development;
· Providing the necessary infrastructure for mentor teachers to take more seriously their role within the novice teachers' professional development;
· The development of a well co-ordinated Teaching Practice unit focussing on supporting and monitoring qualitative learning across the diverse learning contexts of a fragmented society;
· The development of clear policies around initial placement and posting of newly qualifying teachers, including the quality of induction programmes that schools manage as part of their responsibility to the graduating teachers.
Together these reforms are likely to produce better quality educators who assume their professional status as competent contributors in shaping the teaching/learning environment of the schools in which they teach.
In the latest policy proposals regarding the shape of the reconstructed higher education system (Department of Education: 2001) the fate of the University of Durban-Westville is not clearly marked as a potential site for PRESET teacher development. Not using the resources and capacity of this institution would be a significant loss to the teacher education system, which ought to harness the strengths within the system. Co-operation with the national and provincial ministries of education, together with the UDW School of Educational Studies should endeavour to resolve this oversight.