Tag Archives: teacher training college

SA school pupils out-perform their teachers in basic mathematics

Economic researcher Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch
Economic researcher Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch


As matric students commence their final exams, a new research study by Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch, indicates that Grade 6 pupils are out-performing their teachers in basic mathematics.

The vast majority of matric students accomplish a mark of between 40% – 49% in mathematics and in 2008 the average mark for maths was 45%. If we consider the outcomes of Spaull’s recent study as an indication of the state of the South African education system and teacher skills, we not only have a crisis in the country but instead a national disaster of epic proportions.

How can we expect the local South African economy to grow and create more jobs for the unemployed or create a breeding ground for entrepreneurs to start businesses, if school pupils are barely competent to solve basic mathematics problem while their teachers, who are meant to guide these learners, are not capable of teaching their pupils.

The research study centered on Grade 6 teachers from disadvantaged schools throughout the country. The results of the study revealed that teachers are not capable of solving basic mathematics problems presented to them. Conclusions may also be inferred that primary school teachers are in all probability no better.

Probably the most disconcerting outcome of the study showed that the top performing Grade 6 pupils easily out-performed some Grade 6 teachers. The very best Grade 6 pupils (5%) had the ability to achieve higher marks on the same mathematics tests that the bottom 20% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers wrote. If this does not result in any red flags and/or warning signs regarding the state of South Africa’s education system, then what is going to jolt our leaders and government to wake up and admit that the country’s education system is in a shambles and crisis.

The study undertaken by Spaull was compiled by conducting a desktop study of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality 111 report (Sacmeq) which had been performed in 2007. As part of this study, Grade 6 pupils and teachers from South Africa and 12 other African countries were required to write precisely the same mathematics tests. Even though questions were not identical, the difficulty level was the same for all those tested.

Spaull’s is quoted as saying that, “There is a case to be made that teachers who lack an elementary understanding of the subjects they teach can actually do harm to their pupils.”

When will the South African government as well as those given the responsibly of educating and training our youth accept the reality that when teachers do not possess the ability and skills to understand the content that they are teaching then there is a problem, and that the problem ought to be dealt with immediately.

“Teachers who lack a sufficient conceptual understanding of their subject are more likely to employ inappropriate concrete techniques when teaching and use methods that undermine the long-term learning trajectories of pupils,”said Spaull.

The results of the study highlighted the following facts:

  •  No more than 32% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers in South Africa hold the required skills and knowledge of mathematics content knowledge. The average for 14 African countries is 42%
  •  South African teachers were only capable of answering 46% of the questions correctly presented to them
  •  60% of the Grade 6 mathematics teachers from the poorest South African schools have statistically considerably less mathematics content knowledge compared to the average Grade 6 teachers in Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda.

Spaull concluded from his research and recommended that government reintroduce the controversial teacher competency test which was emphatically apposed by the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

As increasing numbers of studies are performed and research undertaken in the country, there is growing factual evidence and data highlighting the undeniable fact that a large proportion of teachers in the country lack the basic required content knowledge in the subject that they teach. This is because of the inadequate teacher training and ineffectiveness of in-service teacher training initiatives.

“In light of this, and following the premise that teachers cannot teach what they do not know, it is a logical imperative that a system of identifying which teachers need what help is urgently required, ” said Spaull.

Sadtu is totally against any competency testing of teachers and that teachers testing is not an option. Mugwena Maluleke, Sadtu general secretary, has stated that the union is totally against any teacher competency tests and that the union does not want them. They would prefer that teachers be provided with further training to further improve their skills and competency.

Well, if this is the case, how can you expect to offer further training and skills development programs to teachers when you have no knowledge or information of the skills that these teachers are lacking. Maluleke does concede to fact that some teachers do not have the ability to do maths however, not because they are stupid, rather for the reason that there are no specialized teachers. “We take people who did history or geography and ask them to teach maths. What do you expect?”

Maluleke has highly recommended that the government and the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga should make it a top priority to open teacher training colleges to provide teachers the necessary training opportunities to specialize in certain subjects and attain the basic skills necessary to teach those subject. Motshekga has stated publicly that her department is aware of the issue and this has resulted in the introduction of the Annual National Assessments.

The question that Motshekga really should answer, is how many assessments do we need to undertake before the government realizes the crisis in the South African education system, and additionally assume responsibility for the problems within the education system. Everyone might point a finger at Motshekga considering that she hold the position of Basic Education Minister, but the current failure of our education system is the responsibility of the entire South African government.

Like many others in the country, I do not believe that there will be any changes in the near future until such time that individuals are held accountable for their actions and that government and leaders assume responsibility for the crisis in the education system. The only people who will and are suffering, through no fault of their own, are our school pupils whose future success looks bleak.

Source: citypress, fundza.co.za (image)


Teacher Training Colleges to re-open in 2012


The Department of Higher Education and Training is going to be re-opening three former teacher training colleges in the coming year as South Africa pushes to generate an increased number far better teachers, says Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

Nzimande stated in his department’s budget vote to parliament that government will be opening the former Ndebele College Campus in Mpumalanga for foundation phase teacher education in 2013, and are also planning to open one former teacher training college each in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Government has set aside R450-million for the 2012/13 to 2013/14 funding cycle to assist in the expansion of university infrastructure capacity for teacher education. Funding continues in the next funding cycle.


Increases in teacher candidates, graduates

Nzimande pointed out the reality that there has been a 15 percent rise in full-time and equivalent enrollments in initial teacher education training programmes, from 35 937 in 2009 to 41 292 in 2010. New teachers graduating has increased from 6 976 in 2009 to 7 973 in 2010, an increase of 14 percent.

The minister also mentioned that specific attention was being paid to the growth and development of Foundation Phase teachers, specifically African language mother-tongue speakers.


Teacher, lecturer development

At the same time, a sum of R499-million has been assigned to the nation’s universities for teaching development grants to assist and improve graduate outputs, along with R194-million for foundation programmes to further improve the success rates of students from disadvantaged educational backgrounds.

Nzimande also stated that in the upcoming financial year, programmes would also be established to support the academic and professional continuing development of lecturers in universities. On top of that, a further R177-million has been allocated to 15 of South Africa’s 23 universities, in particular those universities with low numbers of staff with masters and doctorate degrees, in order to develop the research capabilities of their staff.


University infrastructure

A sum of R850-million has been set aside for the period 2012/13 to 2013/14 for universities to construct and refurbish their student residences, the majority being invested in historically black institutions.

The department has been negotiating with both the Public Investment Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) in order to secure additional funding when it comes to student accommodation.

Over the next two years, R3.8-billion has been reserved for universities’ general infrastructure development, of which R1.6-billion has been earmarked specifically for historically disadvantaged institutions.

Pertaining to development on two brand new universities planned for Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, Nzimande pointed out that he hoped to be in a position to announce the seat of learning of each new institution in roughly three months, immediately following full assessments and consultations had been completed.

“I remain committed that the first intake of these two new universities will be at the start of the academic year 2014.”


For more information contact Department of Higher Education and Training directly


Source: BuaNews