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Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa M&E Internship



This project is aimed at innovating models of selection, placement and training of pre-service teachers in MSL. This project places candidates as interns in independent schools. This model worked well and is now being implemented and tested in public schools.


Name of organisation/service provider: The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa; (ISASA) Mathematics and English Programme

Duration of Project: 2015 – 2018

Programme: Sector-Strengthening Programme

Where is the Project based: KwaZulu-Natal


The ISASA Mathematics & English Internship Programme aims to increase the supply of Black teachers in Mathematics, Science and English (while ensuring an increase in skill, knowledge, confidence and competency in these critically important subjects). The programme offers school-based training in public schools to trainee teachers who complete a university degree by distance education through UNISA.

The intervention integrates theory and work-based learning to produce teachers with good academic results and equips the interns with the necessary content knowledge. The model is based on the premise that interns are less likely to leave the profession as they have been immersed into the life of schools and experienced the rhythms, realities and challenges of classrooms.

They experience different styles of teaching, learn good teaching practices by learning from excellent teachers and derive value from peer support systems. They are exposed to wider communities and networks of professional practice through the attendance of professional networking programmes such as the annual Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA) Congress.

The Programme has the following specific objectives:

  • To demonstrate the benefits of the teacher- internship route into teaching;
  • To support the government’s targets which have identified that among the key skills needed are competence in Mathematics, Science, ICTs, and language in education.

Challenges to be addressed

It is widely accepted that Teacher Education and Development (TED) in South Africa faces considerable challenges. In its strategic plan for TED 2011 – 2015, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) notes that the challenges include:

  • a lack of access to quality TED opportunities for prospective and practising teachers;
  • a mismatch between the provision of and demand for teachers of particular types;
  • the failure of the education system to achieve dramatic improvement in the quality of teaching and learning in schools;
  • a fragmented and uncoordinated approach to TED; and
  • the tenuous involvement of teachers, their organisations and other role-players in TED (DOE,2011).

Given the challenges facing TED described above, South Africa faces a shortage of qualified Mathematics and Science teachers. According to a recent report by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), only 15% of South African Mathematics teachers are currently qualified to teach the subject. The 2004 Report by CDE, From Laggard to World Class, recommended the launching of immediate interventions to rapidly increase the pool of Mathematics teachers and learners, given the critical shortage of both.

Details of the project intervention

The project has four main components, namely: recruitment; selection and placement of interns in schools, and providing academic support, which is the most substantial component of the programme.


The Programme targets school leavers, undergraduates (candidates who have secured some credits towards a degree) and graduates who wish to enter teaching. School-leavers and undergraduates participate in a four-year programme through part-time study for a UNISA BEd degree.

Graduates participate in a two-year Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programme to obtain a teaching qualification. The recruitment is done through newspaper adverts, community radio stations, distribution of information sheets at conferences and universities (especially UNISA), as well as word-of-mouth marketing.


The selection process comprises the completion of a detailed application form supported by references, written tests and an interview. Skills, potential and suitability of candidates for the teaching profession are tested. An interview by the Head and appropriate members of staff at the prospective host school to determine suitability and “fit” of the intern to the school context.


The ISASA M&E Programme has developed a user manual, ‘Guidelines for ISASA host schools’ which outlines roles and responsibilities of all parties. It clarifies policies and procedures with respect to human resources, financial, legal, and mentoring and relationship issues that pertain to the teacher internship placement.

A mentors’ manual is the basis for training for mentors and two training sessions are held a year to share experiences, report back and find group solutions to challenges. In addition, standardised legal contracts between the school and the interns are in place. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Programme, the School and the intern is also in place.

Academic support

The provision of support is a key component of the programme. It comprises registration at UNISA, orientation, mentoring, ongoing scholastic support in the course of completing the degree and enrichment elements that include participation in workshops, camps and conferences.

The interns are registered at UNISA to study either a BEd or PGCE. They have to meet stringent requirements in Mathematics and Science, equivalent to a BSc level of study, thereby ensuring that they acquire a high level of subject knowledge. On completion of registration, the ISASA M&E Programme facilitates full payment of tuition fees, in this programme, to be provided by the DBE through the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme (an MOU exists between the DBE and ISASA).

Academic support encompasses the following elements:
  • Orientation at the beginning of the Programme equips interns to plan their course modules with UNISA, interact with other new recruits as peers and prepare them for their transition into their host school environments.
  • Mentoring involves pairing experienced teachers in the host schools with teacher interns, so that they can offer professional, social and emotional guidance and support during training. The mentor monitors the intern’s progress by reviewing lesson plans and offering assistance in the areas of planning, curriculum content, teaching strategies, and professional conduct. In addition, the intern works in association with teachers and staff in extracurricular activities, such as sports and special events, as well as participating in in-service training at the school.
  • Academic Support is formally provided through the range of support activities. This begins at the orientation workshop, then in regional workshops and a national workshop. These are both structured and responsive to areas of difficulty identified by the interns. They deal with academic challenges, assignments, personal development through individual support, training sessions and mentoring. A very important breakthrough has been the forging of cooperation with UNISA where the lecturers play a significant role in attending the camps, providing tutorial input, establishing and maintaining contact with the students.
  • Enrichment: In addition to the school-based practical training, the ISASA M&E Programme organises workshops, coaching, trainee camps and peer-learning networks for remediation and enrichment, to assist the interns’ academic development. Interns have regular contact with and access to Departmental lecturers, which gives them greater confidence when they know what is expected of them academically and professionally. Interns are also afforded an opportunity to attend the Association of the Mathematics Educators of South Africa (AMESA) annual congress. This opportunity exposes interns to wider communities of Mathematics practice and fosters their sense of professional affiliation and commitment to the profession.
  • stipend of R 3,850 is used by students for a variety of personal needs, such as accommodation, transport and purchase of clothes for work. The cost of fees is provided by the DBE and cost of books is covered by ISASA.


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