By dr. Martha Steyn
World Teachers’ Day is celebrated on 5 October. This year’s theme, as approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), is: “The teachers we need for the education we want.”
On this day recognition is given to the determination and diligence with which teachers approach their work. At the same time, the spotlight is shined on aspects that the sector and educators have to contend with.
A teacher is a professional person who consciously deals with the crown of God’s creation by way of teaching education. Vocation-driven teachers focus not only on the efficient unlocking of knowledge, but also on the active cultivation of wisdom, the holistic development and self-realization of learners, as well as the formation of heart and mind.
When looking at the local education landscape, the heterogeneous nature of the South African population, unlike in top education countries such as Finland for example, results in several challenges. These challenges include, among others, multilingualism, the teaching of most learners in a language other than their mother tongue, cultural differences, socio-economic limitations, poor and outdated infrastructure, accessibility and a lack of quality teaching. The latter is laid at the door of ineffective teacher training.
Despite these multidimensional challenges, the local education sector has shown resilience and innovation in recent years, especially after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Vocationally driven teachers interact creatively and with impact with the curriculum on a daily basis and in the process build bridges between learners and the wider community.
One of the major challenges facing the local education sector is the shortage of well-trained teachers. This challenge does not necessarily refer to a system in which not enough teachers are trained, but rather to two deep-seated problems.
The first of these is the critical shortage of male teachers. This deficit spills over into all subject areas and phases. The second problem stems from the reality that most teachers do not receive their training in their mother tongue or the language of teaching and learning at school level. Mother tongue teaching equips prospective teachers to deepen their knowledge, to engage critically with it and to present their expertise with confidence. In the case of Akademia, teaching students are equipped to teach in Afrikaans and English.
Akademia celebrated the launch of its faculty of education in 2021 on World Teachers’ Day. Today, two years later, this faculty plays a key role in delivering teachers who are adaptable given the rapidly changing and technologically advanced education environment.
It is also the dream and aspiration of the faculty to make a positive contribution to the practical, fundamental and reflexive skills of South African learners through high-quality teaching training.
Excellent education lays a foundation of hope and will equip learners with skills and thinking abilities that will unlock the world for themselves and their communities. Within these contexts, vocational teachers fulfill the indispensable roles of facilitator, lifelong learner, assessor, subject specialist, leader, curriculum specialist and spiritual leader.
Vocationally driven teachers contribute positively to the renewal and further development of the teaching profession in South Africa.
- Dr. Maretha Steyn is attached to the Faculty of Education at Akademia.