Newsletter 59 How others view teachers

“Learning, regardless of how it is defined, is ultimately the responsibility of the learner, not the teacher” Bob Kizlik

The discourse about teacher professionalization highlights how others view teachers and their teaching. Here a compilation of opinions and views about teachers and teaching. YOU BE THE JUDGE! 2/4


  • Durban - The fundamental problem with the schooling system was that most teachers had limited knowledge of their subjects and knew only marginally more than what they had to teach their pupils.
  • This was despite years of training by provincial education departments, universities and NGOs, which had produced “disappointing results”.
  • This was according to a report by the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, presented to Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, in Pretoria on Thursday.
  • The unit’s mandate was to provide an authoritative account of the state of teaching in the country - of which this report was the first.
  • Entitled “The State of Literacy Teaching and Learning in the Foundation Phase”, the research sought to identify why schools performed as they did, rather than how well. It focused on grades 1 to 3, the learning phase that is critical for mastering reading, writing and calculating.
  • Aside from teacher capacity, the report, released by the unit’s chief executive Nick Taylor, revealed the myriad problems posed by language. Schools in two districts from each province were sampled. In KwaZulu-Natal these were Ilembe (Ballito) and Umlazi (greater Durban).
  • The report said a recent analysis of a language comprehension test written by a sample of Grade 6 teachers in 2007, found that while teachers did well when asked to retrieve information that was explicitly stated (75 percent), their scores took a nosedive when the questions required interpretation (37 percent) and evaluation (40 percent).
  • The maths results were similar, and there was no reason to believe that the subject knowledge of grade 1 to 3 teachers was any better, the report states.
  • In terms of language, while the government advocates teaching African children in their home language, parents were increasingly opting for their children to be taught in English and Afrikaans.
  • In Ilembe, at only three of eight schools were pupils taught in the language which was the home language of most pupils at the school.
  • Unit evaluators who visited the schools also found that the complexities of teaching reading and writing were exacerbated by a diversity of home languages at a school.
  • Up to five different languages (some foreign) were spoken in a single classroom at an inner city Durban school.
  • At township schools in the Umlazi district, where Zulu was the language of teaching and learning, Xhosa had become the second most widely spoken language.
  • A common problem was that the African language spoken by many township children was seldom the standard form of that language.
  • Switching from the language of teaching and learning to English during maths lessons was also common, given the complex terminology.
  • Teachers in the Umlazi district were particularly vocal about the difficulties of teaching maths in Zulu. Additional reporting by Sapa


  • Nick Taylor, a respected educationalist and head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, set out to determine if the dysfunctional school system was a result of teachers who did not want to do their jobs, because they could not do their jobs. The overwhelming evidence presented in the report leans towards the fact that our teachers can't teach.
  • According to the Needu report (2013), the majority of teachers lack all three aspects of what teachers need: subject knowledge, knowledge of the curriculum, and skills to teach.The Mpumalanga department of education took the lead in addressing the problem in 2011 by initiating a pilot programme in the KwaMhlanga region at 12 schools. Sants, a private higher education institution, developed the Holistic Integrated Programme with a focus on the basics in teaching: reading, writing and mathematics. The emphasis was on improving the teacher's subject content, curriculum knowledge and teaching methodology.
  • Teachers were evaluated at the beginning of the programme and a year later. The results for teachers who teach language in the foundation phase improved on average from 33% to 83%, and results of the intermediate-phase teachers improved from 38% to 80% on average. These improvements were also evident in mathematics. The results of the teachers teaching mathematics in foundation phase improved from 66% to 92% and intermediate-phase teaching from 54% to 87% on average.
  • The HIP's positive impact is evident at school level as well. Teachers are more motivated, dedicated and knowledgeable in their subject fields and have the know-how to teach.
  • Teachers now plan their lessons, use interactive teaching methods and teach from the concrete to the abstract, as they have been trained. Classrooms are now more learner-focused with informative, structured, planned and fun reading and maths corners. This creates an environment conducive to teaching and learning. Pupils' behaviour changed from being undisciplined to interactive, disciplined and focused.
  • Sants' opinion is in line with Jansen's, that the solution is to improve teachers' subject knowledge and their pedagogical skills to teach, starting at the foundation.
  • The current education context must be addressed as soon as possible to rectify the mistakes of the past. Lowering the pass mark will only worsen the situation.

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