CPUT, South Africa
Rada Mogliacci, UCT
Marcina Singh, CPUT
Nimi Hoffmann, Rhodes University
Yusuf Sayed, University of Sussex
The SDG goals and corresponding targets are designed to shape policy and practice across all UN Member States. Education, one of the 17 goals, is recognised as a key driver in the sustainable development agenda, and can be seen as either supporting or undermining these processes. For the first time teachers are mentioned in UN developmental targets. Trained and motivated teachers are acknowledged as key agents in improving the quality of education. This panel examines teachers and teacher education in South Africa with a view to understanding existing capacities to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, in developing countries (SDG 4).
Colonisation and apartheid have profoundly shaped teaching in South Africa, an inheritance that the post-1994 dispensation has addressed though not successfully (Sayed and Kanjee 2013). White schools have become home to a multiracial economic elite, while black schools continue to educate an impoverished black majority (Chisholm 2004;Motala 2009;Taylor and Taylor 2013). This context has given rise to the concept of a “bifurcated” education system (Sayed and Soudien 2005;Van der Berg 2008;Spaull 2013), in which historically black schools are systematically unable to convert resource inputs into learner outcomes relative to historically white schools in South Africa or schools in other (poorer) African countries.
In this context the panel is about teachers and their work in the context of embedded inequalities, and what this means for learners and learning. The papers examine three datasets on teachers and teacher education that were systematically collected over the last three years by the Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE). These datasets provide critical, new information on student teachers’ experiences of colonial language policies in universities, the ways in which their transition into teaching practice is shaped by the interlocking inequalities of settler colonialism, and how their understandings of professionalism and accountability cast light on schools as institutions that reproduce inequality.
The panel further addresses broader continental commitments to rethinking teaching and teacher education as an issue of central importance as outlined in Agenda 2063 of the African Union (2015) and expressed in the core mandate of the Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA 2017). Papers in this panel all make contributions towards the capacity to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, in developing countries towards ensuring inclusive and quality education for all (SDG 4).
The agency of newly qualified teachers in South Africa: possibilities and challenges
Rada Jancic Mogliacci &Melanie Sadeck
Policy and research advocate the importance of teachers in achieving equity in the drive to provide education for all. Teachers are called to act as agents of change in the pursuit of social justice (Zeichner, 2009). Educational change is a central preoccupation in post-apartheid South Africa, where systemic injustice and inequality still dominate (Christie, 2016). Such a landscape requires teachers that are able to exercise their agency to mitigate inequality (Pantić &Florian, 2015). The agency of newly qualified teachers is particularly critical, insofar as they are at the forefront of generational change. Yet such teachers are confronted with a number of challenges, including the theory-practice divide, the lack of professional support and policy attention on the first years of teaching, and the context of the school in which they enter, to name a few (Aspfors &Bondas, 2013;Clandinin, Long, Schaefer, Downey, Steeves, Pinnegar, McKenzie Robblee &Wnuk, 2015).
This paper examines the transition shock and gap between initial teacher education and classroom teaching in South Africa. It reports on a longitudinal study that tracks student teachers from their undergraduate teacher education programmes into their first year of teaching. This paper focuses in particular on data collected from primary school teachers who into their first year of teaching. In this paper, we explore two specific themes that emerge from the study. First, we examine the complex interconnections between initial teacher education and school contexts in which newly qualified teachers find themselves. Second, we explore how these teachers exercise their agency in navigating the tension between what they have been taught and how school and community context conditions their pedagogic enactment. We argue that their agency is differently enabled and conditioned based on the inequalities of teaching spaces, which include inequalities of race, gender, class and language.
Learning to teach language in South Africa: A decolonial perspective
Zahraa McDonald &Marcina Singh
The overwhelming use of colonial languages as the official language of instruction at school and university is a central paradox of education systems in “post-colonial” African states. Laitin et al. (2016) hypothesize that the use of colonial languages is the single most important reason for the large-scale systemic failures in education attainment in African countries. Little is however known about the processes of learning to teach language. In South Africa there has been a shift in the public discourse on language practice. For the first time, some universities have introduced teacher education in African languages. Not by national decree, but rather a drive by the political dynamics within universities, particularly by the student movement which has called for a decolonisation of higher education in the country. As such, the many student teachers continue to be trained to teach in colonial languages (McDonald &Mogliacci 2017).
Within this shifting context then, this paper asks: what are student teachers’ experiences of learning to teach language? To answer this question, the paper focuses on student teachers who are learning to teach elementary grades;it reports on data gathered over three years of their undergraduate teacher education programmes. The paper analyses student teachers’ language development related to five dimensions: (1) the language practices student teachers enter into teacher education programmes with;(2) language practices in lectures;(3) language practices related to language courses;(4) the language practices in classrooms during teaching practice;(5) the language practices required from graduates who exit teacher education programmes. Analysis of data associated with the five dimensions of language development in teacher education programmes, drawing on Linda Darling-Hammond’s (2006) insights, finds inadequate coherence in student teachers’ experiences of learning to teach language. The paper concludes by considering what this means for student teachers’ role in decolonising higher education.
Different rules for different teachers: teachers’ views of professionalism and accountability in a bifurcated educated system
Nimi Hoffmann &Yusuf Sayed
There is strong debate about the tension between teachers’ identities as professionals and their accountability to various social actors. However, there are very few empirical studies of how teachers understand their role as professionals and their accountability to different social actors. The OECD TALIS study and the EU’s Eurydice surveys are examples, but include few countries from the Global South and no African countries (OECD 2016, European Commission 2013). These studies collect representative data on teachers’ views. However, as Govender et al. (2016) stress, these studies do not provide data on the ways in which various inequalities, such as those of race, class and gender, shape their understandings of their work, and what this reveals about how their schools function.
This paper reports the results from a representative survey of teachers from 167 schools in South Africa regarding their views of professionalism and accountability, the first of its kind in the country. The survey findings indicate that teachers at no-fee schools, who are predominantly black women, tend to emphasise different characteristics of professionalism relative to their colleagues at fee-paying schools. We argue that there is a relationship between how teachers conceptualise their role as professionals and the obstacles that they face: in this case, burdens related to historical under-investment in black schools, social trauma arising from state violence against black people, and a lack of institutional support from the state and the public. The findings imply that the concept of a bifurcated education system in South Africa, characterised by different production functions and outcomes for learners, should be expanded to include teachers and deepened to include institutions. Since the data derives from South Africa, it is highly relevant to education systems that are similarly driven by the multiple interlocking inequalities of settler colonialism.