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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 Africa points 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 upon continued professional learning. The Department of Basic Education’s online learning space offers 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

Teachers frequently attend workshops and training courses (including online) to enhance their knowledge and skills, which in turn allows them to provide learners with quality education. These also provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, and help educators to share knowledge and update their skills to ensure that they continue to provide learners with relevant, quality education.

Attending workshops and training courses accredited by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) allows educators to claim professional development (PD) points. SACE registration is mandatory for all educators.

SACE-accredited courses:

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has established a platform of 147 District Teacher Development Centres (DTDCs) nationwide. Teachers can access CPTD courses and teacher professional learning communities from these DTDCs. Vodacom and UNISA have partnered with the DBE to develop the ICT skills of teachers and have equipped most of the DTDCs with ICT resources and internet connectivity.

Educanda Teacher Training And Development workshops equip teachers with practical classroom management skills to make them more effective. They cater for teachers from preschool up to Intermediate Phase, lecturers and students in Foundation Phase and Training Institutes in need of practical, hands-on training, and teachers’ unions, which roll out training and development programmes for their members (from preschool to Intermediate Phase).

Embury Institute for Higher Education offers Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) short courses to upskill teachers both professionally and personally.

The Eduvation Network is an online platform for educators, offering a wide variety of professional development courses.

SchoolNet manages four teacher development programmes, which are aligned with national policy frameworks as well as the Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning.

Edufundi’s ‘Teach Like a Champion’ workshops help to support and mentor teachers, focusing on 19 teaching techniques used by master teachers around the world. Material is made available in teachers’ and learners’ home languages.

The Champion Teachers Programme offered by the Global Teachers Institute is a three-year national programme for public school teachers and leaders in rural South Africa who have been identified as potential change agents. It consists of professional development workshops.

BRIDGE’s Teacher Development Community of Practice is a national initiative encourages collaboration between schools, NGOs and other service providers to increase the impact of interventions supporting teacher development (while reducing duplication). 

Mentorship programmes

Mentorship programmes effectively aid teacher development by helping educators reach their full potential in a supportive, enabling environment. Mentors are often experienced educators or experts in the field, which means that they can relate to the challenges faced by teachers within the school environment.

The South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP) involves mentoring as well as school-based training.

Unisa’s Department of Educational Foundations offers peer mentorship and coaching as part of its remit.

Mentorship plays a large role in Edufundi’s ‘Teach Like a Champion’ programme.

The Global Teachers Institute’s Future Leaders Programme offers mentorship alongside school-based training for pre-service and in-service teachers.

In-school support

In this model, the focus is on assisting educators by providing on-site training, support or resources that inspire improvement within the school or classroom. This leads to a more enabling and supportive environment for teachers which, in turn, creates a better environment for learning.

The Zenex Foundation’s three core programmes are not just for learners – they also provide subject content and pedagogical training and in-classroom support to maths, science and English teachers. Its Literacy Project helps teachers to implement CAPS through a focus on classroom management, training, and in class-specialist coaching.

The South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition is a Community of Practice run by BRIDGE, made up of school leaders and teachers from 22 schools around South Africa defining themselves as ‘impact schools’. It focuses on classroom practice and instructional leadership. Members share best practice, attend content-based workshops at each other’s schools, and take part in assessment, monitoring and evaluation.

In 2019, Mellon Educate held a Teaching Blitz, with qualified teachers from the UK and Ireland travelling to Cape Town to work alongside teachers in schools supported by the charity. Phase 2 of the Mellon Educate charity initiative is to improve teaching and learning – its educational resources help to support training and development (Phase 1 was building). 

Bursaries/residencies for further education

Many teachers would like to further their professional development in education but lack the funding to do so. Recently, there has been a heightened awareness of the challenges faced by educators in South Africa, especially (but not exclusively) in areas of maths and science, literacy and ICT. This has led to a variety of bursaries being offered, enabling current educators to enhance their existing skills and learn new areas of expertise.

There is a variety of education and teaching bursaries available in South Africa.

The Norah Taylor Bursary is available for further study in speech training, oral communication or teaching English as a first or second language. The ‘Ex-PCE’ Bursary (SACEE) assists former students and teachers of the Pretoria College of Education to further their studies in teaching or promote the English language.

Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme (FLBP) promotes teaching in public schools. It was established in 2007 as a merit bursary for high-achieving students. The goal was to attract a greater number of students into initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in SA universities. Bursary recipients must teach in public schools for a period equal to the number of years they have received funding.

The South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP) is an ISASA initiative that aims to address the root cause of South Africa’s skills shortage – the critical lack of qualified maths and science teachers. SAMSTIP, Investec and the Department of Basic Education are offering teachers bursaries for a four-year B.Ed. degree or a one-year postgraduate Certificate in Education at UNISA.

The Osizweni Science Centre offers Teacher Support Bursaries for aspiring teachers as well as teachers already in the education system. It is available to educators teaching maths, science, technology and accounting subjects.

The Global Teachers Institute offers a USA Internship that provides student-teachers and young teachers from South Africa Extraordinary Schools Coalition with a one-month residency in a school in the United States. Teachers will share best teaching practices, form mentoring relationships and collaborate on strategies to bring about equality in education.

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

The Department of Basic Education sees PLCs as a scalable professional development solution to address learning barriers.

In collaboration with the Department of Basic Education and Provincial Education Departments (PEDs), the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB) initiated 12 inter-school pilot PLCs amongst foundation and intermediate phase teachers from public ordinarily, full-service and special schools in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape during 2017 and 2018. Findings show that participation in the pilot improved the knowledge and skills of teachers and supported them to adapt their teaching strategies to reach all learners.

A PLC was set up between the Kleinzee Centre for Learning and Development, the Ferdinand Brecher Primary School, and Dr Izak van Niekerk Primary School in the Northern Cape. It yielded significant results, leading to more intra-school PLCs being established.

Other interventions

The Schools Development Unit offers a number of courses structured specifically to improve in-service teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, with an explicit focus on classroom teaching.

One of the pillars of the Adopt-a-School Foundation is educator development – from classroom-based workshops, content knowledge gaps and motivation to teamwork, teaching skills and tools, and assessment and recording.

Innovation Edge’s MathsUp app is used by Grade R teachers to access fun and relatable maths CAPS-aligned content to help their teaching practice.

Pearson’s free teaching resources available on Classroom Solutions assist educators to become more effective teachers.

Vodacom’s Digital Classroom web-based teaching materials include teacher professional development resources.

JET Education Services’s eMpela is an e-learning programme that supports teacher development with CAPS-aligned e-tutorials. Teachers’ progress is tracked and monitored.

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