Better trained teachers will lead to economic transformation


If radical economic transformation is to be realised, the education system will have to be transformed. Without addressing problems with the quality of education offered in many public schools, it is improbable that the government will achieve sustainable economic development.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2016, which ranks the quality of education in 139 countries, placed South Africa 137th.

Although its methodology has been criticised, other international assessments, such as the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study), have reported similar poor levels of educational achievement in South Africa.

It is tempting to blame these results on a funding shortage but the government invests more in basic education than many other countries. When Malusi Gigaba was the minister of finance, R246.8-billion was allocated to basic education in 2018 — 14.8% of the consolidated budget. This matches past state expenditure on basic education, so why is the return on this investment so poor?

Even though many factors contribute to the performance of an education system, a great deal of research highlights the salience of teacher quality in economically developed and low- and middle-income countries.

As part of my doctoral studies, I conducted individual interviews with 37 teachers from fee-paying and no-fee public schools in the Western Cape. The findings demonstrate that the demanding nature of the job is taking its toll on teachers.

The majority of participants said they felt overwhelmed and overworked. Frequent media reports about high rates of absenteeism and turnover among teachers are to be expected.

The primary discourse of participants was that of being unprepared for the job. They said teacher education programmes did not adequately prepare them to master, manage or tolerate the demanding nature of teaching, especially during the liminal period of qualifying as a teacher and becoming an in-service teacher.

Participants suggested that prospective teachers should gain more “hands-on”
teaching experience before entering the occupation.

Education is essential for sustainable economic development but the quality of education offered in many public schools is paving the way to future ratings downgrades.

Continuously increasing state expenditure on basic education has failed to address problems linked to the quality of education offered in many public schools.

The performance of any organisation largely depends on effective human capital management. It is not possible to transform the education system without investing in teacher development.

It appears that prospective teachers are trained to teach at universities and not at schools. Tertiary institutions must return to the drawing board and build better bridges between theory and practice.

This may help to address problems with the quality of education offered in many public schools and, in turn, realise radical economic transformation.

Nicola Vermooten is a registered industrial psychologist and PhD candidate at Stellenbosch University

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