Presented in partnership with Capitec Foundation on 22 August in Johannesburg and 27 August in Cape Town

“The teacher is the main catalyst for developing confident and competent learners. Key to growing and supporting an effective teaching force in our country is understanding the challenges teachers face, as well as their capacities, roles and responsibilities.” – BRIDGE website

According to Trialogue’s annual corporate social investment (CSI) research, education was supported by over 90% of companies and received nearly half of CSI expenditure (approximately R4.3 billion) in 2018; 12% of which was invested into teacher development programming. Acknowledging the centrality of competent and committed teachers, forum delegates explored various approaches to teacher development programming and shared perspectives on how companies and their non-profit partners could help to ensure that this cornerstone of our education system receives the necessary support and resources to help systemically improve our education system.

The business case for investing in teachers
As part of its shared value thinking, Capitec works to help create a thriving society and recognises education as the key to unlocking South Africa’s prosperity. Capitec’s head of CSI, Neptal Khoza, spoke at both forums on the company’s prioritisation of and investment in teacher development programming, explaining that, in order to have a meaningful and lasting impact on education outcomes in this country, there are critical systemic issues such as improving the competency and capacity of teachers that need urgent and comprehensive address. The sustainability of learner-centric interventions and support, no matter how impactful, only extends to those who have benefited directly from the programming, whereas the upskilling of teachers benefits far more learners for a much longer period of time.

Challenges that hinder teacher performance
South Africa is losing some of its best teachers and most promising teaching graduates to other industries – and countries – because teaching is not as valued in our society. Delegates discussed some of the many challenges that teachers are forced to contend with, including the language barriers between teachers and students; inadequate content knowledge; overcrowded classrooms; lack of resources; lack of opportunity for career progression; administrative demands; fulfilling too many roles outside of teaching; violence and poor behaviour in schools; and lack of parent involvement.
When there is a mismatch between teachers’ and learners’ first languages, effective, clear and engaging communication – particularly when explaining complex concepts – becomes difficult. This conversation around language led to delegates in Johannesburg unpacking the broader Anglo-normativity that so often goes unchallenged in schools and how this impacts the efficacy of many teachers.

Case studies
Various models of intervention were discussed, including bursaries, initial teacher education programmes, mentorship, continuous professional development, in-school support, pedagogic practice and leadership training. The fact that many teacher development programmes draw from various intervention models was also noted.

Teachers Plus, an initiative of Polyoak Packaging, aims to develops teachers’ maths and accounting content knowledge. The organisation runs a five-year teacher development programme that offers full teaching bursaries for study through the University of South Africa (UNISA). For the first two years, the teaching students are based at Heathfield Primary School and Steenberg High School in the Western Cape to ease the high learner to teacher ratio and to run afterschool programming with smaller groups of learners. This programme helps student teachers get accustomed to the demands of this line of work and develop their teaching styles. To track their competency in maths and accounting, the student teachers write the relevant subject matric exams annually, until year three of the programme.

The Schools Development Unit at the University of Cape Town, in partnership with Capitec Foundation, piloted a project that mentored teachers who taught maths, supporting them to deep dive into the content and think through ways to best transfer subject knowledge to learners. The process was closely monitored and found to have positive impacts in the classroom, and has since expanded to 17 schools. Early buy-in from school management, provincial and national education departments was highlighted as key to making such programming a success. Initial teacher education (ITE) ensures that teachers are capacitated with a solid foundation of knowledge and skill from the beginning of their careers, while continuous professional development (CDP) allows teachers to update their knowledge and skills and adapt to changing environments. CPDs cannot, however, make up for gaps in a teachers’ development. To address the ITE and CPD gaps, JET Education Services has been working with the Department of Higher Education to improve how the teaching of literacy and maths is taught to
aspiring teachers at tertiary institutions. JET has developed a primary school-level maths test that assesses teaching students’ maths abilities. The average score is 49%, with a few trainee teachers scoring between 50% and 59%. The average increases to 53% among fourth year students, demonstrating that very little progress is made in learning basic maths concepts during a four-year degree. These results further underscore the importance of first understanding teachers’ knowledge base, before designing CPD courses.

The Primary Science Programme (PSP) offers teachers in about 30 Western Cape schools in-classroom support and mentorship with strategies that promote better teaching and learning outcomes in maths, science, environmental and language studies. PSP also provides resources for teachers to make their own materials that can facilitate quality teaching and learning of these subjects.

Harnessing ICT to enhance teaching
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us and the fact that most future jobs will demand technological skills, it is well past optional for teachers to not only know how to use technology, but also how best to leverage this tool to support and enhance their teaching. Government and corporates opting to equip under-resourced communities with ICT devices has been widely criticised when these types of interventions lack the necessary support to harness these tools. However, the undeniable counterpoint is that placing tech such as tablets into some schools has contributed significantly to the democratisation of access to content for many learners.

Vodacom, through a partnership with UNISA and the Department of Basic Education, supports 147 teacher centres at which continued teacher training takes place at a district level. Teachers can access additional resources, receive further training and form communities of practice.

According to education non-profit, BRIDGE, many organisations that work in ICT in education fail to share their data, which leads to repetition of bad practice. Teachers who understand the important role that ICT has to play in elevating the quality of our education and who have the necessary tech skills are imperative to help drive the integration of ICT into schools. To this end, BRIDGE organises forums for teachers who are ICT champions.

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