Professional Practice Standards for Teachers
Name of organisation/service provider: JET Educational Services (Project Management Agent) with South African Council for Educators (SACE)
Duration of Project: 2016 - 2017
Programme: Sector-Strengthening Programme
Where is the Project based: National
The South African Council for Educators (SACE) has adopted numerous strategies to improve the professionalisation of teachers in South Africa, and approached the Zenex Foundation to assist and accelerate the process of producing and adopting professional practice standards for teachers. The project is co-funded with SACE, which has appointed JET Educational Services as its technical and implementation partner.
SACE’s mandate is to enhance the status of the teaching profession through registration, management of professional development and inculcation of a Code of Ethics for all educators. “Enhancing Teacher Professionalism” is a multifaceted project of the SACE. It has been initiated following the completion of a review of national and international professional councils and extensive consultations which has resulted in the development of a proposal to develop a framework for producing professional standards.
The status of the plan in the three core areas of the work of SACE is described below:
1. Registration: SACE as a professional council has the responsibility to determine who will enter the teaching profession. There are a number of challenges associated with registration. These include:
- Discrepancies in minimum qualifications in that SACE requires, as a minimum, a three-year qualification, while all higher education institutions offer a four-year qualification.
- There is no process for addressing the relatively large numbers of unregistered teachers in SA.
- The registration database is currently not being utilised due to incomplete data and poor field definitions of required data.
2. Professional development: SACE’s mandate sets out the role as promoting, developing and maintaining the image of the profession, and managing a system for the promotion of the Continuing Professional Teachers Development (CPTD).
SACE has the role of managing the CPTD system. A part of the responsibility is the approval of providers to offer professional development programmes. This is consistent with best practices of other councils that were studied. However, SACE will require additional resources to enable it to play a central role in the CPTD system, and could mark the main activity for the next decade of its operations and development.
3. Teacher Standards: The setting of Professional Standards for entry into the profession and progression is key. This project aims to assist SACE in setting Professional Standards. This has implications for SACE’s contribution to regulating the profession and professionalising teaching.
There is agreement amongst all stakeholders that a set of Professional Standards for Teachers that are adopted by all stakeholders (universities, government, teacher unions) will serve as the “glue” that holds together all the initiatives to improve the professionalisation of teachers.
Challenges to be addressed
There is the need to develop a Professional Standards1 Framework for the teaching profession in South Africa. This framework should be a collaborative effort from the onset that involves all relevant stakeholders. The Standards will provide a framework to:
- Inform criteria for the recruitment of teachers
- Inform pre-service training
- Inform registration and induction of new teachers
- Inform CPDT.
The development of the Professional Standards is a complex task, involving many detailed processes and a range of stakeholders and individuals. The adoption of teacher Professional Standards is important to the professionalisation process and the development of a professional core of teachers. The Standards also provide detailed guidelines of the competencies required by teachers in each phase of their development. If these Standards are implemented in a systematic manner, professionalism will increase.
SACE as a teacher professional body has been mandated to develop these Standards as part of its broader responsibilities around the professionalisation of teachers.
Details of project implementation
The goal of the project is to contribute to improved professionalisation of teachers in SA and the objective is to develop and adopt a framework for professional practice Standards for students and beginner teachers; school-based teachers and accomplished teachers in SA by May 2017.
The project is in the implementation phase and will comprise five sets of activities:
- Drafting of Standards: It will establish three Standards Development Working Groups, one each for the three categories of teachers (at different stages of a teacher’s career pathway viz: students and beginner teachers; school-based teachers and accomplished teachers) for whom Standards are to be developed. The three Working Groups will consist of up to six experts, who will undertake the work. JET will ensure coordination across the Working Groups. The National Advisory Group will provide oversight for the work of the Working Groups.
- Consultation: SACE will lead the multiple consultative processes with external stakeholders to gain inputs on the above Standards. This consultative process to ensure buy-in from all stakeholders for the Standards is critical. The Standards must be “owned” by stakeholders and can’t be merely a technical writing exercise.
- Pilot: The proposal makes provision for a brief piloting of the Standards at school level as the Standards must be operationalised in a school’s day-to-day practice. The pilot (which will be evaluated) will provide this opportunity.
- Statutory Process: The feedback from the pilot will go back to the three working groups for a final iteration. This will also be presented to the National Advisory Group which has academic, DBE, SACE and union representation. SACE will then lead the final formal consultation process within the SACE Council and the DBE. The Standards then follow the statutory process of gazetting.
- Communication: This will be launched by the SACE and a national communication campaign will be undertaken.
This is a well bounded project with a clear set of implementation steps. The implementation includes extensive consultation and this process is part of the planning at the outset. In order to accelerate the production of the Standards, a labour intensive process with the involvement of experts in a short time is planned. The fact that the Standards will be gazetted is an important outcome, and is the first step in the professionalisation process.
1. A professional Standard describes the same core knowledge, skill or competence required for a particular focus area, for example knowledge and understanding of the curriculum. Differentiation could take place for student teachers and registered teachers; or at various career stages, graduate, proficient, highly accomplished, lead teachers.