More teachers, better teachers: this is the challenge for teacher education both in South Africa and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The use of distance education and school-based methods can increase access to knowledge, learning and skills both for new entrants to the teaching profession and for the thousands of serving teachers. However, increasing access without ensuring quality is of no benefit to the system. And no teacher, however well trained, can be effective in a dysfunctional school. Key questions for teacher education that guide Saide's work in the area are therefore:
- Are teacher education programmes organized in terms of access, flexibility, and sites of learning in ways that are likely to attract potential teachers and serve the varied development needs of existing teachers in the system?
- Is the content and approach in these programmes likely to lead to effective teacher training?
- Is there effective professional development to equip those in leadership positions to lead and manage schools for continuous change and challenge?
Saide can offer the following services in teacher education:
- Programme and materials development
- Research and evaluation
- Quality assurance
- Policy research and development
Through various projects, Saide has built up expertise in the following areas of specialisation:
- Education studies
- Early literacy and numeracy
- Early childhood development
- Inclusive education
- Teaching and learning mathematics
- HIV AIDS in education
- Use of ICTs in schools
- School leadership and management.
Overview of Saide's work in Teacher Education – 1995 to the present
Saide's work in teacher education began at a systemic level. Our work in the distance education part of the large scale teacher audit in 1995 laid the basis for our contribution to the revision of the Norms and Standards for Educators (NSE), particularly the discussion document describing flexible options for programme delivery. The Audit provided a dismal picture of the state of distance teacher education, and it was necessary to focus our efforts after that on finding and exploring examples of good practice to inform understanding of what could work well in the South African context, rather than merely dwelling on the failures. Our evaluation of the FDE programme in English Language Teaching offered by the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as of the assessment practices of the Wits Flexi B Ed Hons provided us with valuable insights to take forward in advocacy, policy, and professional development work.
Saide's first and major materials development project was an eight module series in the Study of Education, funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation and published by Oxford University Press between 1998 and 2002. Two modules in this series were revised and published as second editions in 2009, and the remaining titles are being released as Open Educational Resources on the Teacher Education Space on OER Africa. The purpose of the series was to provide an alternative to the apartheid legacy of fundamental pedagogics as the theoretical basis for education studies courses, as well as critical support for outcomes-based education.
Also with funding from the Kellogg Foundation for research into the use of distance education methods for rural education, we spent considerable time investigating the design, delivery and management of the B Prim Ed offered by the University of Fort Hare’s Distance Education Project, as well as Promat’s in-service Diploma in Education. We used the insights gained from this research, to inform our understanding of critical success factors for distance education in rural area. Finally, with the University of KwaZulu-Natal we developed a proposal for a certificate course for the rapid training of teachers in and for rural areas.
Since the Study of Education series was produced, Saide staff have undertaken a number of materials development projects in teacher education in the areas of Inclusive Education and Early Childhood Development. Saide managed a programme and materials development process for the Department of Education which ran over a three-year period from 2006 to 2009 and involved 17 higher education institutions, educator unions and a number of NGOs and other stakeholders. The outcome was a set of materials published under a creative commons license to support an ACE in School Management and Leadership.
Saide was commissioned by Higher Education Aids Project of Higher Education South Africa (HESA), to develop materials for a 12 credit module, Being a Teacher in the Context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 2006. Under a European Union grant, this module was piloted in all 23 Higher Education Institutions in 2008/9. A Saide staff member was the key expert responsible for evaluation on the team managed by an international consulting company, WYG International.
Through the Educators in Schooling Standards Generating Body, SAIDE was involved in standards setting for teachers education, producing qualifications that included the National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE). Involvement in the standards setting process exposed Saide to a range of issues which have led to further work: research (particularly into Recognition of Prior Learning in teacher education programmes), and evaluation (particularly in relation to the NPDE).
Saide has worked closely with the national Department of Education on teacher upgrading, first in 2002 with the development of a plan for teacher upgrading based on the National Professional Diploma in Education, and then in 2008/9 in research on lessons of experience to inform policy on teacher upgrading in the future. Part of this was support for the Human Sciences Research Council in conducting a Teacher Qualifications Survey to produce a qualifications profile of serving teachers in public schools.
In the area of quality assurance, Saide staff were the report writers for Department of Education commissioned work on quality standards framework in 1996. This was then revised after stakeholder consultation as the Quality Criteria For Distance Education In South Africa (1998), and again as the NADEOSA Quality Criteria contained in a NADEOSA publication, Designing and Delivering Distance Education: Quality Criteria and Case Studies from South Africa (2005). Although not exclusively focused on teacher education, the volume contained a number of case studies of distance teacher education programmes, in which we used our understanding of the policy environment for teacher education as well as the distance education quality assurance framework to select and edit the work contributed.
The NADEOSA project was part of Saide's ongoing cooperation with other distance education providers and the Higher Education Quality Committee to promote quality in distance education more broadly. Saide contributed to the HEQC national review of teacher education programmes (2006 to 2008) in the formulation of distance education specific criteria, in the training/orientation of programme evaluators, and in support of institutions in their preparations for the national review.
Over the years, we have worked very closely with educational providers of teacher education. For example, a SAIDE staff member was seconded to UNISA’s School of Education in 2002 initially to manage UNISA’s NPDE programme, but also to assist in quality assurance, with the B Ed Honours, and with institutional ODL policy. Through close and practical engagement with providers, Saide's understanding of distance education systems, staffing and costing has been immensely strengthened. This positioned Saide to contribute to projects such as developing a costing tool for teacher education for the World Bank, and evaluating the University of Pretoria’s distance education management and administrative systems.
Saide regularly offers professional development services in distance teacher education to institutions both in South Africa and other parts of Africa (for example, Lesotho and Mozambique ). Saide is a partner in the organization of the biannual DETA conferences (Distance Education and Teacher Training in Africa) and in the TESSA project, an Open Educational Resources project in Sub-Saharan Africa. Saide staff have contributed to the development of the teacher resources for TESSA, as well as the guidance for teachers and teacher educators on the use of these resources.
From as early as 2000, work in teacher education has explored the use of multimedia and ICTs for delivery. Through the evaluation of Schoolnet’s Educator Development Network (EDN) modules, we looked at how teacher education can promote integration of ICTs into the curriculum as well as how teachers’ own ICT skills can be built. We also conducted work in the management of ICTs in schools - based on research in how computers are used in schools, we developed a manual for school principals on how to manage computers in school.
From 2006 to 2009 Saide was a member Teacher Education Programme consortium with CEPD, HSRC, and University of Pretoria’s Centre for Educational Evaluation on a set of projects funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy: an innovative project to identify, adapt and pilot in six higher education institutions a mathematics teaching and learning module as an Open Educational Resource (the ACEMaths project); a research project on the teaching of literacy and numeracy to prospective Foundation Phase teachers; and a research and development project on Creating Caring Schools.
From the ACEMaths and TESSA projects, Saide developed an understanding of the benefits of the OER ‘movement’ for teacher education. This laid the basis for the conceptualisation of a Teacher Education Space on OER Africa, the main objective of which is to ake available teacher education course material – textbooks, learning guides, readers, and associated multimedia resources – as OER – and to engage teacher educators from across Africa in discussions and/or projects for teacher education course design using OER.