With only about half of matric learners passing mathematics from 2017 to 2023, and a concern about not enough learners taking mathematics as a subject, many experts agree that mathematics education is in crisis. This is partially due to the lack of maths teachers in South Africa and inadequate training for teachers.
A Bizcommunity article reported that one of the reasons for our dismal math performance is a lack of qualified math teachers. The article states “In 2015, the Centre for Development and Enterprise predicted that South Africa will need around 456 000 teachers by 2023. By 2018, the public education system had 410 000 teachers, with math teachers in particularly short supply”.
But more than half of South Africa’s teachers are expected to retire by 2030, and teaching is not a popular career choice for those eligible to study.
Why is there a shortage of qualified maths teachers?
The article goes on to explain why there is a shortage of maths teachers in South Africa, as well as the reasons experts predict the trend will continue including poor salaries and working conditions, and corruption within the sector. With the importance of maths and science skills for growing our economy, it’s vital that there are enough qualified teachers to enable this growth. The article also mentions some of the strategies that the Department of Basic Education hopes will alleviate the maths education crisis in South Africa.
Low-quality teacher training does not prepare teachers
In the article ‘Maths teachers in South Africa: case study shows what’s missing’ , Jacques Verster summarises key findings of qualitative case study he co-authored: ‘Constraints Influencing the Efficacy of a PGCE Mathematics Program: A Case Study’. The study focused on a post-graduate teaching course for aspiring maths teachers, and it finds, similar to previous research, that the low maths performance in South African schools is heavily influenced by a lack of competent teachers.
The following constraints were identified:
- Inadequate support structures to properly support the growing number of students taking the course at the university where the study was conducted
- Inadequate ICT infrastrature to support the aspiring teachers
- Lecturers relying too much on content for a different course (the four-year Bachelors in Education degree), and duplicating content taught
- Limited partnerships for professional development communities and practice teaching opportunities.
- Lack of oversight over university policy, delivery, and assessment of the course.
The quality of training and support for educators needs to be better for an improvement in school performance.
Another report looked at first-year students studying primary school education and revealed that incoming South African teachers scored poorly on basic primary school maths tests. It is clear that improving the quality of teacher training will support learners to achieve higher in maths. Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) published a report in March 2022 to constructively examine mathematics pedagogy in South Africa and suggest ways that the teaching of mathematics can be improved.
Companies supporting maths teachers
Various companies invest in programmes to support maths teachers, as they see the need for this intervention to support the economy. These include Investec’s SA Mathematics and Science Teacher Internship Programme (SAMSTIP), Epoch and Eptima Trusts, and the Capitec Foundation’s programmes to support maths teachers. There are also various non-profit organisations and academic institutions that focus on teacher support in mathematics, many of which receive support from corporates, such as the Wits Maths Connect projects.
Citation: Verster, J., & Sayed, Y. (2020). Constraints Influencing the Efficacy of a PGCE Mathematics Program: A Case Study. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 66(2), 192–206. https://doi.org/10.11575/ajer.v66i2.67915