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Lessons from New Zealand on education and teacher training

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Date & time Oct 1
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Creator freemexy

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The demands placed on teachers in a normal school day is no joke, particularly in today's world, where everything a teacher does is scrutinised and questioned, not only by parents but also by some students, writes Belinda Backwell.Internationally recognised teacher training programmes

President Cyril Ramaphosa listed education as a priority in his recent policy speech. But in my and many of my associates' opinion there is much more to be said and to be done in education than he indicated.

In allocating funding for education, government ministers should look first and foremost at the beginning; starting where the initial seed is planted, to grow our teachers and provide them with the best start in their teaching careers.

Many countries around the world, such as Finland and New Zealand, have excellent models of education that can be drawn from. It goes without saying, that each country, the world-over, have their own demographic issues to take into account, but overall, by looking at what has already been implemented, and proven to be successful elsewhere, we can create and provide an education structure that is world-class, right here in South Africa.

The Department of Education, in conjunction with our top universities, need to look at ways to improve the quality of training that our beginning teachers receive to ensure that they are fully equipped in the best strategies to support the learners of today. The quality of young beginning teachers and the continued support of these newly trained teachers is of paramount importance, to ensure they are receiving the best, up-to-date, researched-based pedagogy and support in their first few years of teaching.

Currently, teachers in training are sent on short practicums within established schools. Whilst these practicums are beneficial in providing teachers with an insight into the role of a teacher, it is not nearly enough to fully prepare them for a full-time teaching role and coping with the varying demands and needs of individual learners. With the ageing teacher workforce and increased demands for teacher retention in South Africa, it is vital that support is given to effectively manage, maintain, and retain young teachers.

This can be addressed two-fold. Firstly, by looking at the content of what is taught at higher education level; and secondly, how the new teacher can be supported once they are qualified and have gained employment within a school.
Delivering up to date content to trainee teachers is vital to their survival in the "real" world of teaching. The demands placed on teachers in a normal school day is no joke, and not for the faint hearted, particularly in today's world, where everything a teacher does is scrutinised and questioned, not only by parents but also by some students. I hear some hark…. "Oh, but they get so many holidays". That may be the case, but ask any teacher and the majority of his/her holidays are used for planning, meetings, recouperating from a stressful term – which is vital if one is to survive the following term ahead – making resources, preparing for the next term/year.

A teacher is a true multitasker and not just there to instruct a class of children (in some cases class sizes of up to 30+). Teachers are counsellors, mediators, life coaches, enforcers, trip coordinators, negotiators, cheerleaders, organisers, fund raisers, IT specialists, reality checkers, dream instillers, nose wipers, comforters, decorators, event planners, schedulers, handwriting experts, role models…. the list goes on!

Are our newly trained teachers equipped for the demands that are placed upon them? Are they being trained adequately to give them a sound foundation of what they are going to face in the first few years of teaching? Are they being supported in these first few years to ensure they continue to love what they do and grow as teaching practitioners with vigor and passion?

No amount of content and theory learnt can prepare any teacher for the reality of what lies ahead in a full-time teaching position and this then leads me on to my next point, providing ongoing support for our newly qualified teachers.
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