How to invest in Teacher Development

A 2007 McKinsey Report on high-performing education systems in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries makes the important point that the quality of education cannot exceed the quality of its teachersDeveloping teachers into effective instructors is one of the top three factors contributing towards these high-performing systems – and this is a critical strategy if we are to lead learners into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), as well as make a dent in our high unemployment figures and drive greater financial inclusion in society

While it is widely asserted that teachers are not solely responsible for learner achievement, it must be acknowledged that they are uniquely well-positioned to make a profound impression,” the report Understanding Teacher Professionalisation in South Africapoints out. 

Teacher development has significant impact on student learning, particularly when it comes to Initial Teacher education (ITE), according to Nick Taylor, senior research fellow at JET Education Services. Focusing on subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge is vital, along with mentorship, coaching and peer-to-peer learning among educators. These interventions help teachers to learn better, continually review their procedures and attitudes, and pursue personal development. 

There are essentially two aspects of teacher quality: qualifications (access to high-quality institutional academic and professional learning for the purpose of teaching – both for teacher preparation and career path development) and quality teaching in the world of work (classroom/school). The latter depends uponcontinued professional learning. The Department of Basic Education’s online learning spaceoffers resources for professional development that encompass both Initial Teacher Training and Continuing Professional Teacher Development. 

Teacher development interventions typically take the form of workshops and training courses, mentorship programmes and bursaries/residencies. Professional learning communities are also encouraged, as teachers need to engage in lifelong professional development to keep abreast of changes in the curriculum and society. 

Examples of intervention models

  • Workshops and training courses

  • Mentorship programmes

  • In-school support

  • Bursaries/residencies for further education

  • Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

  • Other interventions

Recommended Resources

Teacher Development CSI Forum

In 2019, Trialogue held a CSI Forum on Teacher Development. 

Read more: How to invest in Teacher Development

Teacher Development: Policy Papers and Research

Trialogue has found that the largest percentage of CSI expenditure on education is on school-level education (general education plus further education and training), which received an average of 50% of education spend (up from 44% in 2018). While early childhood development and tertiary education spend were in line with 2018 allocations (17% and 28% of total education spend respectively), only about 1% was spent on adult education – a decrease from 3% in 2018. 

Companies spent the largest portion of their education budget on bursaries, scholarships and university chairs (23%), followed by learner development initiatives (21%), in line with previous years.However, the number of bursaries awarded to students enrolled for initial teacher education decreased from 13 500 in 2018 to 13 000 in 2019, and will decrease further, to 12 500, in 2020. School governance, leadership and functionality received the least support in the education sector. According to Nick Taylor, senior research fellow at JET Education Services, continuous professional development (CPD) in education is largely under-researched and unevaluated, attracting very little funding. 

[Read more on Trialogue's research into CSI in Education]

Relevant Acts and Policies

  • The National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa

    This 2006 policy documentfor teacher education was designed to develop a teaching profession ready and able to meet the needs of a democratic South Africa in the 21st century. The aim of the policy was “to properly equip teachers to undertake their essential and demanding tasks, to enable them to continually enhance their professional competence and performance, and to raise the esteem in which they are held by the people of South Africa”. The first of its kind in South Africa, this policy document made it possible for South Africans to debate and contribute to issues central to teacher training and development. 

  • Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications (MRTEQ)

    Issued by the Department of Higher Education in 2015, MRTEQ is the revised national policy on the minimum requirements for teacher education qualifications. The revised policy aligns qualifications for teacher education with the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework 2013. It replaced the MRTEQ of 2011 in its entirety, which in turn replaced the Norms and Standards for Educators (2000). 

  • Teacher professional standards for South Africa

    The 2017 paper Teacher Professional Standards for South Africa: The road to better performance, development and accountability? by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) provides insights into the conditions under which TPS in South Africa might serve to raise school performance. It addressed three key deficiencies in the education system: many teachers are ill-prepared for teaching, are not accountable, and do not receive enough support and training to equip them as competent educators. 


  • How does professional development improve teaching?

    This 2016 article by a researcher in the United States reviews research on professional development (PD) programmes with an eye towards learning about how different approaches to PD foster learning. 

  • Advancing Professional Teaching in South Africa: Lessons Learnt from Policy Frameworks That Have Regulated Teachers’ Work

    This 2018 article analyses four frameworks used to regulate, monitor and evaluate the work of South African teachers over the past two decades. The authors posit that the ways in which the previous frameworks constrained teacher professionalism has implications for SACE’s Teacher Professional Standards for South Africa if it is to more successfully enhance teacher professionalism. 

  • Annual performance plans

    The Department of Basic Education Annual Performance Plan, 2018-2019andThe South African Council for Educators Annual Performance Plan 2018/19both provide a situational analysis of education in South Africa, together with strategic objectives and annual targets. 

  • Teacher Development Summit (29 June – 2 July 2009)

    This summit brought stakeholders together to review teacher development at the instigation of teachers themselves, supported by the Department of Education, the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA). Participants agreed upon the need for a new, strengthened, integrated national plan for teacher development. 

  • The Colloquium on Sustainable Change in Education

    In 2018, atwo-day colloquium was held to explore ideas emanating from research related to sustainable change at scale in schools in South AfricaThe findings of the colloquium are availablehere

  • Teachers’ and HoDs’ Accountability on Curriculum Coverage: PILO theory of change

    This Wits School of Education presentation explores how PILO’s theory of change sees teacher support and improvement in South Africa and internationally through the lens of ‘accountability’. PILO aims to develop internal reciprocal accountability at system and school level in order to make it self-sustaining. PILO’s theory of change is a description of the operational design of the JikaiMfundo campaign, an education intervention undertaken by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education in partnership with the Programme for Improving Learning Outcomes (PILO) and with the support of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT). Information about the JikaiMfundo Campaign 2015-2017 can be found here.

  • Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa 2011-2025

    This 2011 technical report by the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training was the culmination of a long process of stakeholder engagement regarding teacher development, which began at the Teacher Development Summit of 2009. The report gives an historical overview of teacher education provision, teacher demand, supply and utilisation, and the preparation and development of teachers by public higher education institutions in South Africa, as well as teachers’ development needs and support structures. 

  • The Initial Teacher Education Research Project (ITERP)

    In 2016, JET Education Services released its final reporton the state of initial teacher education (ITE), including the development of student teachers, the early work experiences of new teacher graduates, new teacher recruitment and career choices, new teacher placement and reception in schools, and new teacher distribution. ITERP set out to examine the extent to which the ITE programmes offered by universities are adequately preparing teachers to teach in South African schools. 

  • Does Content-Focused Teacher Professional Development Work?

    In 2016, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional AssistanceInstituteof Education Sciences (IES) in the United States,published the results of findings from three IES studies regarding teacher PD. The studies examined the impact of the PD programmes on teachers’ content knowledge and instructional practice, as well as their students’ achievement. The findings showed that intensive content-focused PD improves teachers’ knowledge and some aspects of their practice but improving teachers’ knowledge or practice does not automatically translate into improvements in student achievement

  • Opportunities and Challenges for Teacher Education Curriculum in South Africa

    This 2008 book traces the micro-level responses of teacher educators at five universities experiencing the impact of the restructuring of teacher education curricula, which has radically changed the teacher education landscape. The book forms part of the Teacher Education in South Africa series, which documents a wide-ranging set of research projects on teacher education conducted by the Education, Science and Skills Development Research Programme within the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). 

  • Shifts in beliefs, knowledge and skills: teachers’ experiences of instructional rounds practice

    Teachers’ beliefs may provide them with the resources necessary to maintain and improve their instructional practices, according to this 2017 PhD thesisBy collaborating with other teachers and gathering data from their instructional practice, teachers are in a better position to change their beliefs by understanding the roles that they, their learners and the content of their lessons play in their classrooms. 

  • Teacher Development Research Review: Keys to Educator Success

    This 2015 article explains how to get the best out of your teachers and improve student learning. It identifies a range of best practices found by researchers to be critical for ensuring educator growth and success. 

  • Teacher Development Communities of Practice

    According to BRIDGE, the teacher is the main catalyst for developing confident and competent learners. A focus on teacher development, both pre-service and in-service, is essential for long-term impact on the system. The national Teacher Development Community of Practice encourages collaboration between schools, NGOs and other service providers to increase impact and reduce duplication of interventions supporting teacher development. Click here to read more on mentorship in teacher development.  

Read more: Teacher Development: Policy Papers and Research


Teacher Development: Context 

How does teacher development support developmental goals?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) superseded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2016, but both United Nations compacts envisioned similar educational outcomes globally: quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. In South Africa, this is broadly underscored by the Bill of Rights and the South African Schools Act.

While we do not place much emphasis on the MDGs any more, one of the gains in sub-Saharan Africa was increasing access to primary education from 52% to 80%. The Sustainable Development Goals, which are more comprehensive and require greater collaboration and engagement by all sectors and stakeholders in society, have defined a set out outcomes for education, encapsulated in SDG Goal 4. This includes the following:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
  • By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States.

It is obvious that good teachers are crucial if we are to achieve the targets set by Goal 4, but challenges remain, including the shortage and uneven distribution of professionally trained teachers (particularly in disadvantaged areas). “As teachers are a fundamental condition for guaranteeing quality education, teachers and educators should be empowered, adequately recruited and remunerated, motivated, professionally qualified, and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems,” UNESCO writes.  

The UN has pointed out that, despite significant progress, 262 million children and youth aged 6-17 were still out of school in 2017 and more than half of children and adolescents were not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. The capacities of teachers and the quality of education have not kept pace, suggesting that far greater investment in teacher development may be needed to achieve the targets set by Goal 4. “Globally, there has been little progress in the percentage of primary school teachers who are trained: it has been stagnating at about 85% since 2015. The proportion is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (64%),” the UN has pointed out.

Several studies on teacher development and teacher quality note the high turnover rate of South African teachers, as well as the poor results achieved under their watch. According to Professor Gabrielle Wills, an education economist at Stellenbosch University, educators struggle to produce the desirable results.

  • South Africa rates worst for science achievement among more than 60 countries.
  • Around 60% of grade 4 learners in the public schooling system are not able to read fluently and with understanding.
  • Around 61% o Grade 5 learners are unable to do basic mathematics.
  • Some 79% of Grade 6 or 7 maths teachers are unable to score 60% or higher on Grade 6 or 7 level questions.

Additionally, around 10% of the country’s teachers are absent from school each day, and only 13% of foundation phase new teacher graduates speak an African language at home while 83% of learners do so.

Will professionalising teaching make a difference?

It has been suggested that “a new breed of teachers” is needed to meet the challenges of educating our youth in the 21st century, but also that professionalising teaching will go some way towards alleviating some of the problems faced. The South African Council for Education (SACE) has produced a Professional Teaching Standards Draft for Consultation with Teachers & Subject and Phase Specialists. Aside from adhering to professional standards and a code of conduct, teachers also need to commit to Continuous Professional Development (CPD) beyond the world of work.

Key stakeholders involved in the professionalisation of teachers include the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and teacher unions.

The South African government spends more on education than on any other sector (20% of state expenditure and 7% of the nation’s GDP). The Department of Basic Education (DBE), which is responsible for primary and secondary state schooling, works hard to address the multiple, complex challenges within the education – including strengthening its support for teachers – but the fact remains that there are insufficient support structures in place. In addition, teachers have drawn attention to:

  • Administrative overload
  • Having to teach subjects for which they are not trained
  • Poor working conditions, physical infrastructure and overcrowded classes
  • Undue delays in filling vacant teaching posts
  • Being in the professional as a result of the economic imperative of following the availability of bursaries rather than a calling
  • A lack of being valued by society

The bottom line is that teaching is in crisis, teachers require greater support and development, and their knowledge and teaching practices are in urgent need of improvement.


Recommended Resources

  • Why is teacher development important?

    Professor Gabrielle Wills explains why teacher quality is so critical to improving our education system. “You can’t win a war unless you train your army, and our teachers are the key agents for change with respect to providing quality learning and education for children,” she says.

  • Teacher professional standards for South Africa

    The 2017 paper Teacher Professional Standards for South Africa: The road to better performance, development and accountability? by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) provides insights into the conditions under which TPS in South Africa might serve to raise school performance. It addressed three key deficiencies in the education system: many teachers are ill-prepared for teaching, are not accountable, and do not receive enough support and training to equip them as competent educators.

  • Teachers in SA: Supply and Demand 2013-2025

    The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) developed a model to predict teacher demand from 2013 to 2025. According to the model, demand for teachers will rise from around 426 000 in 2013 to 456 000 in 2023.

  • Why teachers are leaving the profession

    This 2017 article found that teachers were largely leaving the profession due to low pay, high stress, poor working conditions, changes in the curriculum, a lack of resources, disrespectful learners, low professional standards, and corruption and mismanagement – all of which lead to low morale. In addition, government employees are not entitled to receive a lump sum of money when they retire. Education is still the largest profession in the country, with more than 400 000 teachers, but more needs to be done to make teaching a safe, attractive and valued occupation in South Africa.

  • PIRLS 2016 International Results in Reading – Teacher Satisfaction

    According to Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), an international comparative assessment that measures student learning in reading, teachers who are satisfied with their profession and the working conditions at their school are more motivated to teach and prepare their instruction. They are also more likely to remain in the classroom, and less likely to be absent.

  • Why professional development matters

    This 2010 Learning Forward paper asserts that even experienced teachers confront multiple challenges every year, including changes in subject content, new instructional methods, advances in technology, changed laws and procedures, and student learning needs. Professional development allows educators to improve their skills, which in turn improves student learning.

  • The importance of professional development for educators

    The US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences says student achievement can improve by as much as 21% as a result of teachers’ participation in well-designed professional development programmes. Professional development turns teachers into better, more apt educators by enabling them to create relevant, tailored course instructions for learners.

  • The Importance of Continued Professional Teacher Development (CPTD)

    According to the NPO BRIDGE, research shows that an informed and inspiring teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing learner performance. CPTD is an integral part of teacher education because only continued learning and training assures a high level of expertise and ensures teachers deep up to date with new research on how children learn, emerging technologies for the classroom, and new curriculum resources.

  • Transformative teacher education in a time of crisis

    This 2017 inaugural lecture given by Professor Di Wilmot at Rhodes University suggests that systemic underperformance is a major problem in our schooling system, and teachers need to be well-equipped, well-supported and accountable if they are to play a critical role in improving the quality of learning.

Read more: Teacher Development: Context

About Trialogue

Trialogue is one of only a few consultancies in South Africa that focus exclusively on corporate responsibility issues. Over 17 years of experience puts us at the forefront of new developments in sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI).

We are a 51% black-owned company and the southern African Local Authority of the CECP Global Exchange.