In response to the urgent need for quality initial teacher education (ITE) in South Africa, Zenex has funded a number of strategies for developing quality teaching practice programmes. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) BEd Foundation Phase Internship Programme is one such initiative to research and test a model for Foundation Phase student-teacher internships. The project is located under Zenex Strategy 2025’s focus on Foundation Phase teacher pre-service education.
The UJ internship programme is a four-year pilot based on lessons drawn from the university’s practice school, Funda UJabule, and international best practices. It is solidly founded on evaluation-based practices and weaves tightly the relationship between theory and practice.
Its aim is to raise the quality of teacher training in the critical areas of early grade literacy and numeracy, by immersing student-teachers in the school environment while they undertake their studies. This will ultimately benefit primary school learners in these core areas.
The model may be scaled up to other universities that offer the Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree through distance education, better enabling the sector to offer high-quality distance education for teachers. It differs from other internship programmes funded by Zenex in that it does not involve an NGO as an implementing partner. Instead, an institution of higher learning is implementing the programme.
The UJ BEd Foundation Phase Internship Programme works with Zenex to achieve the following:
- Developing an effective model to ensure student-teachers in distance education undergo successful internships and induction with the support needed to become high-quality Foundation Phase teachers.
- Developing a comprehensive, relevant curriculum and resources alongside a high-quality teaching practice programme.
- Strengthening the role and mentorship capacity of student-teacher mentors.
- Ensuring an integrated policy and strategic framework that provides standards for teacher professionalisation.
The programme will be piloted at 15 selected schools and include 50 students studying for the BEd Foundation Phase Teaching degree online. This BEd qualification is designed to facilitate a congruent experience for student-teachers between coursework and practice in the school. Student-teachers willing to be placed at a school on a full-time basis are eligible for the programme. The programme takes place over a four-year period from 2021 to 2024.
Student-teacher interns will spend one year in a school setting during which they will build a productive relationship with their mentor. Established teachers will participate in a continuous development and online learning programme enabling them to mentor interns effectively. UJ Faculty of Education staff conducting the programme have been extensively trained since 2019.
The programme is also interactive, making use of state-of-the-art resources and technology, including educational videos and other artefacts. These resources will be useful for student-teachers and teacher educators across the country, and they will thus be made available online on the Knowledge for Action website.
The programme will be closely monitored and evaluated, and the findings will inform distance education programmes on how to:
- Increase education and training access for aspirant teachers, and thus increase the number of graduate teachers to meet the needs of the Department of Basic Education.
- Improve the quality of student-teachers’ practice.
- Align the academic curriculum with training in practice schools to ensure the production of high-quality teachers.
The programme will result in the following outcomes which are closely aligned to Zenex’s Strategy 2025:
- Development of an alternative university-led internship programme for online distance Foundation Phase student-teachers.
- Development of an internship model that strengthens the alignment between theory and practice for online distance education student-teachers.
- Capacitating young Black researchers to play an active role in developing the sector.
- Publication and dissemination of an evaluation report that enriches the knowledge base on student-teacher internships.
The UJ BEd Foundation Phase Internship Programme is an intensive programme that will support student-teachers and their mentors alongside the work of UJ researchers and teacher educators. The internship model under development will further help raise the quality of distance education teacher training in the Foundation Phase.