Newsletter 82 Teacher Professionalism

Professionalism in South African education: the challenges of developing teacher professional knowledge, practice, identity and voice by Francine de Clercq


  • To change and improve teacher knowledge, practice, behaviour and mindset remains a difficult challenge in South African school education.
  • This article investigates how macro and meso influences beyond the level of the school have shaped teacher professionalization and professionalism as both are outcomes of complex contradictory forces and factors.
  • The post-1994 period has seen education departments and teacher unions dominate and shape the construction of teacher professionalisation and professionalism.
  • As a result, serious problems continue to exist in the level and quality of teachers’ work and attitudes.
  • This article argues that a crucial space exists in which a positive impact can be made by independent professional associations to improve teacher knowledge, practice, identity formation and mindset.
  • These associations have great potential for working collaboratively with and for teachers to strengthen the voice of the profession and make professional inputs in the teacher-related policy-making process.


  • Teacher professionalism needs strengthening as a matter of priority. This has to be achieved partly through the development of teacher professional knowledge and competences, but also through subjective constitutive processes which improve teacher professional identity, mindset, behavior and values.
  • The enhancement of teacher professionalism cannot be done through collective bargaining negotiations between education departments and unions, or through narrowly-conceptualised TD programs.
  • The challenge for SACE is to develop a visionary leadership committed to promote and work with independent professional associations, in order to oversee the development of teacher professional knowledge, practice, mindset and identity, as well as responsibility for better quality schooling for all.

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