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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

3. Origins of the landscape

To understand the evolution of the structure of the system over the last ten years, we have to go back to the beginning of the last century. It was an enduring characteristic of the 1910 constitution that it divided responsibility for teacher education between national and provincial government. Colleges of education and the training of teachers for primary education were a provincial responsibility, while secondary teacher training was a national competence carried out by universities and technikons. The political reasons for this lie in a compromise that has remarkable similarities with the negotiations over the interim constitution. In 1910, the colony of Natal was reluctant to enter the union. One sticking point was control of teacher education. The English-speaking Natalians regarded the schooling system as a key element in the preservation of their culture as distinct from those of the other three colonies. Conceding governance of teacher education for primary schooling to the erstwhile colonies was a carrot for Natal to join the union and also marks the early emergence of tension between centripetal and centrifugal forces within teacher education.

The location of the constitutional competence for teacher education in the 1994 interim constitution was also subject to a contestation between those parties favouring devolution and decentralisation to the provinces and those parties favouring centralisation at a national level. Agreement was only secured "at the last minute" by an important compromise: colleges became a national competence in exchange for permitting private-sector provision of higher education.

As Bantu Education was implemented in the 1950s, and the scaffolding of Apartheid put in place, the centrifugal forces appeared rampant. Responsibility for "white" teacher education remained with the four "white" provinces. "Black" teacher education followed the logic of racial classification: "Indian" and "Coloured" teachers were trained in Indian and Coloured colleges of education and secondary school teachers at the Universities of Durban-Westville and the Western Cape. "African" primary school teachers were trained by the Department of Bantu Education and as the "homelands" emerged, each homeland government was given control over primary teacher education colleges within its "own area."

Building colleges of education to train its "own" teachers quickly became a source of status and patronage for the homelands. In the 1980s, this led to a mushrooming of colleges reaching a peak of 120 by 1994. These colleges were part of the schooling system and staffed by College/School educators. For those Africans who remained in the "white areas," the colleges were owned and controlled by the Department of Bantu Education and its successor the Department of Education and Training. By the end of the apartheid era, South Africa had nineteen different governance systems controlling colleges of education, together with 32 partially autonomous universities and technikons providing teacher education.

This has the appearance of a highly devolved system in which responsibilities and authority have been widely dispersed at both national and provincial/racial group levels. In reality, the central government maintained strict control of governance, funding, staffing, curriculum, etc. There were some divergences between the provinces and homelands especially as the homelands went through the three stages to "independence" with each stage giving more control over colleges (albeit with many seconded white officials in key positions). The overall hegemony of apartheid education, however, was pervasive.

In spite of this hegemony and a strong core curriculum, there was a multiplicity of curricula and qualifications, little nationally co-ordinated planning of supply and demand and meagre quality assurance and accountability procedures. There were also vast differences in per capita costs and serious distortions in supply. By 2000, there was a large pool (approximately 50,000) of unemployed teachers (mostly trained as primary school teachers) and a shortage of approximately 10,000 subject specialist teachers (especially in mathematics, science and languages) in the secondary grades.

In addition, the requirements of the rationalisation and redeployment exercise, begun in 1996 and still not completed by the end of 2000, have impacted negatively on the ability of schools to match posts needed for the curriculum with "in excess" teachers from elsewhere. Older patterns of oversupply in urban schools and under-supply in rural schools persisted and newly trained teachers have difficulty in finding posts (even in rural schools). Most posts available to newly entering teachers are "governing body" posts paid for from school funds. As a consequence of these initiatives, the overall teaching corps has declined from approximately 420,000 in 1994 to about 375,000 in 2000.

In 1994, the nine new provincial governments became responsible for more than 120 colleges of education. The 1910 constitutional division of responsibility between national and provincial government remained in effect. The provinces inherited a diverse collection of colleges of education. Each college came with its own particular heritage of qualifications and curricula, which now became "provincial" qualifications.

The 1996 Constitution makes tertiary education a national competence and the Higher Education Act of 1997 (section 21) makes all teacher education and, therefore colleges of education, part of the (tertiary) higher education system. This meant a constitutional "function shift" for the colleges of education (and colleges of agriculture, nursing, military, police, forestry et al) from a provincial competence to a national competence. These seemingly simple constitutional and legislative provisions drove a radical structural transformation of teacher education in the late 1990s.

In 1994, there were approximately 150 public institutions providing teacher education to approximately 200,000 students. Of these students, 80,000 were in colleges of education. Prior to 1994, the supply of teacher was driven, in the main, by the amount of money the various apartheid departments of education were willing to spend on subsidies to universities and technikons and budgets for colleges. One weakness of the multiplicity of apartheid education departments was a poor information system. It is only recently that more accurate statistics have been generated and supply and demand modelling begun in earnest.

At the beginning of 2000, there were approximately 82 public institutions providing teacher education to 110,000 students. Of these institutions 50 were colleges of education with approximately 15,000 students. The number of colleges diminished rapidly during 2000 as the provinces "rationalised" down to 25 "contact" colleges with 10,000 students that were earmarked for incorporation into higher education. The other 5,000 college students were enrolled in two distance colleges: the South African College for Teacher Education (SACTE) and the South African College for Open Learning (SACOL).

In the higher education sector, there were approximately 95,000 teacher education students enrolled in the universities of whom 60,000 were enrolled in distance education institutions. Of these 60,000 students, approximately 40,000 were enrolled in public-private partnerships. Approximately 5,000 students were enrolled in technikons. One unintended consequence of the interim constitution was the emergence and rapid increase of private providers in the mid-1990s within an unregulated climate that became increasingly anarchic during the second half of the decade. It was only with the Higher Education Act of 1997 and the establishment of a Registrar for Private Higher Education that the DoE has been able to exercise direct influence on the private sector. The legal complexity of the field, the usual bodies and the logistical demands of creating a management information system has made regulation a slow process that only began to be effective in 1999.

In this paper, I distinguish between four categories of teacher education provider: public; not-for-profit private; for-profit private; and public-private partnerships. I use the term "public" to mean "state-funded." Although some mention is made of private providers, the primary focus of this paper is on public providers, specifically the universities, technikons and the erstwhile colleges of education.

A number of universities established financially rewarding albeit opportunistic partnerships with private providers to deliver teacher education qualifications. The major weakness of these partnerships in the 1990s was the way in which public funds received by the universities were not spent on providing students with an adequate service but on maximising profit. A common pattern that emerged in the latter part of the decade was enrolment of a large number of teachers for initial and further qualifications who were "serviced" by the private partners in "off-campus" locations with accreditation from the university. Many of these initiatives were "distance" programmes and students had no access to library or other support facilities. Undoubtedly, public-private partnerships will play an important role in the future of teacher education, but the nature of the relationships and how they are regulated and funded are matters not yet finalised.

One consequence of the rise of the privates was a dramatic decline in teacher education enrolments at UNISA and VISTA (the major public distance providers of teacher education) and the Historically Disadvantaged Institutions (HDIs). Within the space of four years, twelve traditionally contact institutions introduced some form of distance education. In 2000, the Minister of Education placed a moratorium on new public-private partnerships and new distance education ventures while new policy on the shape and size of the higher education system was being developed.

During the 1990s, the distinction between PRESET and INSET has become increasingly blurred. For example, under-qualified and unqualified teachers are pre-service students in so far as they are not yet qualified but are in-service students by virtue of their employment as teachers. It is still worth noting, however, that of the 110,000 students enrolled in teacher education in 2000, 15,000 were enrolled in PRESET programmes and 95,000 in INSET programmes. Of these PRESET students, 10,000 were in the colleges and 5,000 in universities and technikons.

Once the provincial rationalisation process was completed, the 25 earmarked contact (face-to-face, full-time residential) colleges of education had approximately 10,000 students and 1,000 staff members and the distance colleges had 5,000 students and 500 staff members giving an overall staff to student ratio of one to ten. The budget for colleges of education in 2000 was approximately R800 million giving an average per capita cost to the state of R40,000 per student. By comparison the per capita subsidy cost of teacher training at a university was approximately R10,000 per annum.

In 1999, HEDCOM requested the DoE to establish a task team to investigate the two distance teacher education colleges: SACTE and SACOL. Together these colleges had a headcount enrolment of 20,000 students. However, their highly flexible registration criterion, with many students registered only for one or two courses per year, translates this headcount figure into approximately 5,000 Full-time Equivalents. These colleges were funded by the provinces in the same manner as the contact colleges and operated at a per capita cost at least double that of the University of South Africa (UNISA). In addition to the 5,000 students enrolled in SACTE and SACOL, there were approximately 15,000 students enrolled at UNISA and VISTA giving a total of 20,000 students enrolled in public distance teacher education institutions in 2000.

There were approximately 40,000 students enrolled in public-private distance teacher education partnerships (for example: University of Pretoria and Success College; University of Port Elizabeth and Azaliah College; Rand Afrikaans University and Lyceum College). In 1990, there were a large number of not-for-profit Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), many with an anti-apartheid history and only a few "for-profit" private providers. The private sector "for-profit" providers grew rapidly in the 1990s with no state regulation in effect while the "not-for-profit" NGOs experienced hard times as foreign funding shifted from support for civil society bodies to direct assistance to the state. In 1994, NGOs were reaching approximately 115,000 teachers with non-formal INSET programmes. The private for-profit providers had approximately 23,000 students (Hofmeyr and Hall, 1996).

Between July 1999 and July 2000, the Minister declared his intention to incorporate the 25 contact colleges as sub-divisions of various universities and technikons and to make the distance teacher education colleges subdivisions of UNISA. It is clear from this brief description that the shape and size of the teacher education system changed dramatically during the 1990s. These changes arose partly from design and partly by default. The major default consequences flowed from the provisions of the interim constitution and subsequent legislation allowing for private higher education providers and prescribing the incorporation of colleges of education into higher education. The interplay of design and default, of intended and unintended consequences, is a key characteristic of teacher education transformation in the 1990s.