|Teacher Education for Transformation: The Case of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa (CIE, 2002, 73 p.)|
|Chapter 1: Introduction|
The post-apartheid period of South African history has been marked by hopes for a better future for all, together with apprehension for what the future holds. Education has played a key role in bringing about a change from an apartheid way of life to a way of life based on a democratic society. In the new social dispensation, teachers carry the heavy responsibility of leading and guiding young people in the country towards the norms and practices of a democratic way of life. The present and future teachers of South Africa face numerous challenges in bringing about this transformation in society.
The question is - how are teachers prepared to face up to these challenges, and how do teacher education programmes meet the demands and needs of a changing society? One such programme facing these questions is the Higher Diploma in Education (HDE), a one year pre-service teacher education programme offered by the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. The following extract from a course outline in this diploma explains the challenge as follows:
... as we enter the new millennium, teachers in South Africa face very specific, perhaps unique challenges. They have the task of undoing the effects of years of apartheid education and at the same time contributing to new educational values, skills and practices (Course Outline - Preparing to Teach in South Africa 2000, Faculty of Education, UWC, p. 2).
This paper attempts to analyse the extent to which this programme meets its objectives of producing future teachers who will be able to face up to the demands of a rapidly changing South African
The need to develop teachers for a changing society is particularly acute in present-day South Africa. At the same time, however, an array of new demands face all teacher education programmes across the globe. Dalin (1998) locates these challenges within three areas, namely, societal paradigm shifts, changing local contexts, and the expansion of childrens learning needs. He develops the societal paradigm shifts into ten global revolutions that are currently affecting the lives of children entering the twenty-first century. These include the knowledge and information revolution, the technological revolution, the ecological revolution, the political revolution and the values revolution.
These global paradigm shifts are compounded by local forces which too are having a major impact on the daily lives of teacher educators in South Africa. Such forces include a new national school curriculum, workplace realities which have fundamentally shifted over the last ten years and a new set of policy guidelines for teacher education programmes themselves.
Dalin (1998) identifies the learning needs of children and youth as another important challenge facing teachers and teacher educators. The examples which Dalin gives in this category are very pertinent to the South African situation and include the ability to cope in more than one language, the ability to play an active consumer and producer role, and the importance of developing as an independent learner. To this one would need to add the importance of learning to live within the all-encompassing threat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and of learning and practising the values associated with the vision of a democratic South Africa.
The emotional space of teacher educators to cope with these responsibilities has, however, been eroded by the shifting occupational realities in this sector. The higher education system in South Africa, where teacher education is located, is in the midst of a process of restructuring. This restructuring is both internally-driven, as university faculties of education become absorbed into larger faculties, and externally-driven as colleges of education amalgamate with one another and become attached to universities. Furthermore, the higher education sector as a whole is grappling with proposals for imminent restructuring around the size and shape of institutions. The shifting ground of teacher education is compounded by a further set of stresses as teacher education is beset by dropping enrolments and a poor public image of teaching.
As these new scenarios emerge, so the problems of the apartheid era have not disappeared. Teacher educators continue to face the challenge of teaching student teachers who struggle with academic reading and writing, who often lack confidence, who in many instances have only been exposed to chalk-and-talk teaching methods, and whose own disciplinary and general knowledge may be limited.