According to a report by Solidarity Helping Hand’s Support Centre for Schools (SOS), 72,1% of Afrikaans maths teachers, as respondents in a study on the professional development of Afrikaans teachers, are of the opinion that the professional development sessions offered by the DBE’s provincial and district offices are of a poor quality. In addition, a large percentage, 53%, felt that it was not worth their while to attend these sessions. These teachers are all members of the SCS’s subject association for mathematics, the Vereniging vir Afrikaanse Wiskunde-onderwysers (V.A.W.) (Association for Afrikaans Mathematics Teachers).
According to Helping Hand Chief Executive Dr Danie Brink, this report highlights the shortcomings existing in the present education system as far as professional development is concerned, and at the same time it also underlines the importance of non-governmental organisations to assume responsibility in this regard.
“When a group of schools forming only 5,3% of all schools in South Africa achieve more than 28% of all distinctions for maths in the country, you know you have world-class maths teaching. The ratio of the number of distinctions per school is more than 500% better at Afrikaans schools than at the rest of South Africa’s schools. This certainly indicates that there is a huge need for the development of the subject knowledge and transfer of maths skills at the rest of the schools,” says Brink.
The report also shows that 69,3% of respondents regard professional development as essential for progress in education, and that 80% of teachers have a need for leadership training, but 54% confirm that only minimal or no opportunities for such training are created.
Brink, himself a specialist in the field of professional development, says research has proved that the professional development of teachers results in improved teacher learning and enhanced learner performance: “The SOS believes that teachers have the biggest significant effect on learner performance, and for this reason the SOS focuses on expanding teachers’ subject knowledge. In so doing we ensure that the group of teachers who are already world-class will remain at the cutting edge of innovative education. We certainly cannot rely on the state to fulfil its duties in this regard, and we therefore create institutions to drive this matter.”
The South African Council for Educators (SACE) is the professional body for educators and is aimed at promoting the status of the education profession by managing the professional development and instilling an ethical code for all educators. For the 2015/2016 financial year, SACE had an income of approximately R60 million. In addition, South African teachers pay R200 for the training and foreign teachers pay R400 for the training.
At the SOS’s North West congress, Hugo Vermeulen, head of the institution, pointed out that their initiatives were aimed at expanding teachers’ knowledge of pedagogics and methodology, leadership and discipline. “The SOS also focuses on the application of technology in the classroom and the use of educational software to complement teachers’ class presentations. The initiative also is an essential support service for Afrikaans education, and with the increasing pressure on Afrikaans schools in South Africa, self-help initiatives such as this will become ever more important.”