Cover Image
close this bookRoles and Responsibilities, Institutional Landscapes and Curriculum Mindscapes: A Partial View of Teacher Education Policy in South Africa, 1990 - 2000 (CIE, 2002, 40 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMulti-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER)
View the documentList of Acronyms
View the document1. Introduction
View the document2. A broad contextual framework
View the document3. Origins of the landscape
View the document4. An overview of curriculum changes
View the document5. Curriculum mindscapes
View the document6. The Norms and Standards for Educators
View the document7. Colleges of Education
View the document8. Towards a new teacher education system
View the document9. Some tentative conclusions
View the document10. Questions for the future
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix

8. Towards a new teacher education system

In a number of documents, the DoE has made clear that the highest priority in teacher education in the period 2001 to 2003 is not the pre-service training of teachers, but the in-service up-grading and/or re-skilling of teachers. There are approximately 80,000 teachers not yet professionally qualified. There is also a large pool of unemployed educators (possibly as many as 50,000) who need re-training and/or up-grading if they are to be employable. There is also an urgent need for comprehensive re-training of teachers to implement Outcomes-based Education as was made clear in the Curriculum 2005 Review Report. To achieve these objectives requires a "delivery" system that can provide education, training and development, much of it on-site, to more than 300, 000 educators.

Throughout the 1990s there has been a strong INSET movement operating at provincial level. The Teacher Audit indicates that provincial departments and NGOs provided non-formal non-qualification-bearing INSET to approximately 238,000 teachers. With all the re-orientation and training around the introduction of Curriculum 2005, it is unlikely that this figure will have declined. Most of this development work is non-formal and does not lead to any qualification.

It is hard to assess the value of this non-formal work. In 1996/97 the DoE commissioned the Teacher Supply Utilisation and Development project. Later, as part of the President's Education Initiative, in 1998 the DoE commissioned research into Educator Development and Support. The broad picture that emerged was of a sector with pockets of innovation and excellence within a general picture of mediocrity and poor quality. However, given the lack of regulation and quality assurance throughout the 1990s, any evaluation of the overall quality of the sector is tentative at best.

South Africa has benefited from considerable foreign funding for education. In 2000, this amounted to approximately 300 million Rand. Although donor funding is a small percentage of an overall budget close to 50 billion Rand, it does have a high strategic value, falling as it does outside the committed budget which is largely consumed by personnel costs. It can support DoE efforts to find the most efficient and effective implementation strategies that will have maximum impact. Unfortunately, the possibilities of replication on a large scale are limited by the scarcity of human and financial resources.

The ability of the South African state to co-ordinate these efforts has increased through the 1990s and there is a keen awareness of the risks and opportunities that come with donor funding and intergovernmental agreements. The capacity of the DoE to manage this assistance is directly affected by the constitutional division of responsibilities between the DoE and the nine provincial departments. This has created serious challenges of management, coordination and communication. There has been a tendency, in the past, for technical and financial assistance to be decided on at national level through a bilateral agreement which is then implemented at provincial level. There is often little feedback to the DOE once the project is being implemented at provincial level.

A cascade of subcontracts stretches the chain of accountability. A common pattern is for the first tier to be the foreign donor. The second tier could be a "foreign" agency as project manager. On the third tier may be a South African NGO, consultancy or consortium, which takes responsibility for delivering the service on a national basis. A fourth tier may then be contracted to take responsibility for delivering the service (usually an NGO) on a provincial basis which in turn subcontracts, on a fifth tier, to the individuals who actually deliver the service at district, school or local level. This is an extreme example, but it demonstrates clearly the pattern of assistance. Such a pattern makes it difficult to manage donor-funded assistance in a cohesive and consistent manner to maximise the value of the assistance.

The devolution of significant decision-making powers has meant that much of this assistance has to be managed at the district and school level. The lack of administrative and managerial capacity inherited from apartheid and the difficulties of constructing new organisational systems, let alone new curricula and pedagogies, while maintaining the old, has put severe strains on the cohesion of the system and the ability of districts and schools to manage their own transformation within the principles and frameworks of national and provincial policy, funding and governance. One possible consequence of this is a systemic fatigue, which impacts on the classroom. Teachers end up attending weekly "training" workshops, which are not co-ordinated, or of particular relevance and serve more to disrupt teaching than develop it.

Most of the efforts at reform of the schooling system have been concentrated in the GET band. But this changed towards the end of the decade when the DoE released its FET Implementation Strategy. In 1999, the Business Trust and the National Business Initiative allocated R100 million to develop occupationally-oriented training. The 160 or so existing technical schools and colleges will be consolidated into approximately 50 institutions and there will be active stimulation of a private sector servicing workplace-oriented skills development. Broadly, the plan implies a shift away from the present strong emphasis on academic secondary schooling for Grades 10, 11 and 12 to a far more skills- and employment-oriented curriculum with multiple pathways towards a Further Education and Training Certificate as the Grade 12 exit level. This has significant implications for the kinds of teachers that will be needed to provide this workplace-oriented curriculum. Most primary and secondary schools are still absorbing the impact of Curriculum 2005 and are bracing themselves for the changes that will come from the Review Report and the new National Curriculum Statement to be completed in 2001. The structural and curriculum changes of the FET plan will create further challenges for secondary schools.

In early 2001, a joint working committee of the DoE and DoL developed a draft national human resource development strategy placing a strong emphasis on the role to be played by SETAs. In September 2000, the ETDP SETA released a draft Human Resources Development Plan for the whole of the Education, Training and Development sector. The SETA is focused on the personnel providing education, training and development to others. It has a public chamber, with national and provincial government and national union representation, and a private chamber which includes universities, technikons, private colleges and schools. By the latter half of 2000, the ETDP SETA was already receiving significant revenue from the skills' levy fund. The DoE has a strong working relationship with the ETDP SETA and strongly supports an integrated and inclusive approach to quality assurance of educator providers, programmes and qualifications for the private and public sectors.

Hanging over all the deliberations around teacher education in the second half of the decade was a growing awareness of the implications of the HIV/Aids epidemic for teachers and learners. By 2000, although the impact of HIV/Aids on the attrition rate for teachers was already apparent, and it was clear that many teachers would die of HIV/Aids over the next ten years, there was a paucity of fine-detailed information on which to make shape, size and funding decisions. The general trajectory is clear: high attrition rates. But it is not clear if, for example, primary teachers will be more vulnerable than secondary teachers, rural teachers than urban teachers, mathematics teachers rather than history teachers. In addition, the effect of HIV/Aids on the cohorts of students is also not easily predicted, making the demand side equations difficult to refine accurately.

The DoE has initiated a number of projects to produce better information on HIV/Aids and more generally to improve its management information systems. What is already clear though, at a strategic planning level, is the need for a highly flexible teacher education system that can expand and contract to meet specific needs quickly and that can deliver its programmes in a variety of modes, many of which will have to reach teachers in their schools and classrooms. Given the lower vulnerability to HIV/Aids of the 40-plus age groups, there could be an emphasis on re-training and up-grading of older teachers, many of whom will teach beyond the "normal" retirement ages.

Pre-service training must be geared towards actual needs and allow for the possibility of significant parts of the course taking place in schools where the students are placed in "learnerships" enabling them to act as assistant teachers while continuing their studies part-time. For example, there are already shortages of secondary school teachers for subjects such as mathematics, science, technology, languages, economics and management. Given a current oversupply of "general" primary school teachers, there are again opportunities to "re-train" these teachers in these subjects.

Teacher education in South Africa has suffered from a variety of malaises in the 1990s. The colleges of education have been subject to a brutal withering as a result of the constitutional provisions leading to the consolidation of public teacher education in universities and technikons. These higher education institutions themselves have experienced severe declines in enrolments and organisational viability. At a structural level, there has been a radical down-sizing and re-shaping of teacher education. From 2001, there will be approximately 25 public institutions providing teacher education and approximately 100 private providers, although it is hard to predict the number of NGOs and for-profit providers as this sector is undergoing a significant transformation as it becomes aligned to the new regulatory system.

At the time of writing, in January 2001, it is hard to take this narrative any further. It is likely that there will be considerable planning activity in regard to teacher education in the first half of 2001. The DoE will host a national conference in 2001 to consolidate the process of developing a national agenda for teacher education, development and training. This national planning process will include a careful analysis of supply and demand, of HIV/Aids, of equity and redress issues, funding, institutional and curriculum development strategies, public-private partnerships, etc.

New academic policy for the whole of higher education will be in place and many of the key role players will be engaged in implementation as they start to fulfil their legislative and policy responsibilities. The curriculum of teacher education as outlined in the NSE and the CREQ and other regulations (SACE, ELRC) will begin to emerge in new programmes as providers align with the new regulatory system.

The DoE has made clear its intentions to have a new teacher education system that can respond rapidly to the needs of the country, addressing issues of supply and demand, financial aid, and subsidy funding for public institutions through a national delivery system consisting of a network of public higher education institutions, private providers, unions, the South African Council for Educators, business, NGOs and community organisations. It is not possible to predict what the impact will be of this policy and the new bodies and processes. If the last ten years have taught us anything, it is that the unintended consequences of policy are likely to be more influential than the original design.