New teachers will have to shape up
Newly qualified teachers will soon be required to prove themselves in the classroom before they get a licence to teach. And if experienced teachers want to be promoted to positions such as principal, deputy or head of department, they will also have to prove they can do the job. These are some of the measures forming part of a massive overhaul of the country’s teaching body, which the SA Council of Educators (Sace), the regulatory body for teachers, has come up with to professionalise the occupation.
In an interview with City Press, Sace chief executive Rej Brijraj said the council was developing minimum professional standards that teachers would have to meet at different stages of their careers. The standards, he said, would be linked to certain competencies, which teachers would have to master to climb the professional ladder.
“Sace is in the process of determining professional standards for all teachers. They will have to abide by them to maintain their teaching licences, and will have to obtain and display certain competencies,” he said.
“When a graduate leaves college or university, they will receive provisional registration. After a period of induction, which is yet to be decided, they will get their first-level registration. I predict they [those who do not meet the standards] will be given extended time to meet the standards and, if they do not, I suspect they will have to leave the profession.”
Brijraj said that as teachers improved in competence, they would be granted different levels of registration. These could also be linked to their salary bands.
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“If you want to be a principal, you will have to meet certain criteria and competencies. The same will apply to deputy principals, heads of department, experienced and junior teachers,” he said.
“Teachers will be given designations, such as ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ teachers. We are overhauling the entire system; we want to bring pride and professionalism into the system.”
Brijraj said the council would consider implementing competence tests conducted with teachers’ professional development in mind, as opposed to punitive tests.
However, the 254 000-strong teachers’ union Sadtu has consistently opposed the introduction of competence tests for teachers. Because it remained to be seen whether teachers’ unions would oppose applying these measures to existing teachers, Brijraj said, the system would be applied mainly to new teachers.
He added that it would “take a generation” to implement the reforms. Although he stipulated no time frames, he said Sace would finish its work on the minimum professional standards by year-end.
Sace is also piloting its Continuing Professional Teacher Development programme, aimed at encouraging teachers who are now in the system to develop themselves professionally. Teachers are expected to accumulate 150 points over a three-year cycle. Although these points can be accumulated by attending training courses, they can also be earned by reading professional magazines and attending run-of-the-mill staff meetings at their schools, or union meetings.
The programme, said Brijraj, was prompted by the realisation that teacher training courses had “serious deficits”.
“The council has realised that teacher preparation has not been satisfactory. Teachers are not well prepared for challenges in the classroom. But we also want teachers to be role models for lifelong learning,” he said.
Professor Sarah Gravett, dean of the faculty of education at the University of Johannesburg, said she was aware that Sace had been consulting a wide array of academics and others over the new professional standards.
“In principle, the idea of professional standards for teachers is excellent. Many countries have them already. But we will have to wait until we see the end product. We do not want to get carried away until we see how the end product will assist in teacher training and in teachers’ professional development.
“I am absolutely supportive of the idea; it should have been done many years ago. But better late than never.”
Nkosana Dolopi, deputy general secretary of Sadtu, said the union was not opposed to the development of minimum professional standards. “All professions are guided by something, so why would we oppose one for our sector? But we will wait for them to consult us before we agree to anything.”
The council, said Brijraj, was not only interested in providing teachers with skills to produce better results.
“We also want to empower teachers holistically to enhance their character profiles by exposing them to correct attitudes. We have a very broad view of professional teachers’ development. That is the surest way to develop the society we need,” he said.