Our Work

The context: The education system in South Africa


The South African education system has transformed drastically over the years, especially in the 1990s which saw the abolition of the apartheid system and its separate education for each of the different population groups. 

One of the most significant challenges facing the South African educational structure is the ongoing quest for the improvement in the quality of education. Over the years, a wide range of policies have been put in place in pursuit of this goal and considerable advances have been made. However, the country has not yet seen significant improvements in learning, which is evident in the low levels of learner achievement.

One of the effects of the Bantu education policies of the pre-democratic era in South Africa is a teaching corps, particularly that serving rural and disadvantaged communities, that was not exposed to the best practise in teacher training. Furthermore, this teaching corps has been expected to implement the many curriculum changes that have formed part of the government’s education reforms, from the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) curriculum of 1997 to the National Curriculum Statement and its revised version, culminating most recently in the publication in 2011 of the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) which lay down the curriculum for all subjects and how to teach them for Grades R to 12. 

Structure of the school system

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is responsible for schooling, from the Foundation Phase which includes pre-schooling Grade 000 to Grade 0, commonly known as Grade R. Schooling is divided into two stages: the General Education and Training (GET) stage which includes Grades R to 9 and the Further Education and Training (FET) stage which includes Grades 10 to 12. The GET stage is then subdivided into three phases: the Foundation Phase (Grades R to 3), the Intermediate Phase (Grades 4 to 6) and the Senior Phase (Grades 7 to 9).

The DBE shares a concurrent role with the provincial departments for basic schooling, however it is the responsibility of each provincial department to finance and manage its schools directly. Schooling in South Africa is compulsory for learners aged 7 to 16 years.

The Department Higher Education and Training (DHET) is responsible for post-school education and training in universities, colleges and adult education centres. The National Development Plan (NDP) envisages that by 2030, all South Africans should have access to a post-school education system that empowers them to fulfil their potential and contribute as active citizens to the social and economic well-being of the country.

Teacher training in South Africa

Before the advent of democracy in South Africa, teacher training was also subject to the inequities of the apartheid system. Unlike their white counterparts, students in the black education sector were able to qualify as teachers with Standard 8 school leaving certificates. This situation explains the finding of the National Teacher Education Audit carried out in 1995 that many teachers (36%) were underqualified or unqualified, giving rise to a demand for in-service teacher education upgrading programmes. In-service or continuing professional development (CPD) of the etching body is one of the main tools the DBE, with the assistance of teacher unions and other sectors, is using to improve the quality of education.  

Major changes to the teacher education system were introduced in 1994. Instead of the 102 public teacher training colleges, 20 universities and 15 technikons that had been offering teacher qualifications, the responsibility for initial teacher education was shifted to 23 Higher Education institutions, with the colleges being merged with the universities or closed down.

Currently, students wishing to enter the teaching profession can do so via a four-year Bachelor of Education degree (B.Ed.) or a three-or four-year Bachelor’s degree, followed by a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). All teachers are required to register with the South African Council for Educators (SACE).

Teacher Unions

SADTU is the biggest teacher union in South Africa and along with the other unions is a vital stakeholder in education. Not only are the unions the voice of educators - they play an essential role in teacher development and have contributed to the discussion around the professionalisation of teachers.

Professionalisation of the teaching profession

Among the key stakeholders involved in the professionalisation of teachers in South Africa are the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training, which provide initial teacher education, the South African Council for Educators (SACE), which is responsible for the registration of graduates as professional teachers, the management of the continuing professional development system for teachers, the upholding of the SACE Code of Professional Ethics (as amended) and the development of the  Professional Teaching Standards.

There is a widespread understanding that the state of schooling is influenced by the extent of teacher professionalism, but there is much debate about what exactly teacher professionalism is. In an effort to come to grips with this important issue, the SCNPDI set up a Task Team under the leadership of Professor John Volmink to conduct background research into the meaning of teacher professionalism and the professionalisation of the teaching occupation.  The Task Team conducted a literature review and focus group discussions involving educators, departmental officials, provincial authorities, academics and education stakeholders with a view to gathering relevant input that will help to improve the understanding and practice of teacher professionalisation and inform the development of a collective programme to address the issue.

Read the Task Team report: Understanding Teacher Professionalisation in South Africa.

More on Teacher Professionalistion can be found at: DBE Information for educators; The importance of professional teacher development; Professional Development; Teacher professional development: an international review of the literature.

At the school level, the South African education system is made up of various strata, from the teacher, to the In-school subject committee, to the cluster level. Continued professional development has to take place from the level of teachers upward.

The SCNPDI’s approach emphasises the role of individual teachers and their peers in professional development, and ensures that most of the responsibility for teacher development lies with the teachers themselves. It makes teacher development less of an offsite activity and a more concentrated, teacher led one.  It calls for greater involvement of teachers in their own professional development and more intensive interventions.

See more on what SCNPDI does.

Strategic areas

Pioneering the way forward: Passionate advocates working to achieve SADTU’s strategic goals.

The SCNPDI’s mandate is to contribute meaningfully to the national professional initiatives led by SADTU in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

The SCNPDI fully aligns with SADTU’s notions of liberation, supporting the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign and championing labour rights for teachers. In doing so, the SCNPDI supports the strategic goals of SADTU’s Vision 2030.  

  • Strategic Goal 1: To ensure effective servicing of Union members.
  • Strategic Goal 2: To ensure a learning nation through the involvement of our members.
  • Strategic Goal 3: To build socialism through the development orientated state.
  • Strategic Goal 4: To ensure effective worker unity.
  • Strategic Goal 5: To ensure delivery based organisational excellence.

The institute’s focus is on Strategic Goal 2 which is closely linked to teacher professionalisation. In pursuit of this goal, we see the process of teacher professionalisation as a journey undertaken by teachers driven by ethical commitment to and passion for their profession: teachers immerse themselves in a process of continuous professional development which involves the exercise of professional judgement, utilising both their experience and knowledge.

SADTU advocates that teachers’ professional development should be effected from within the profession. SCNPDI thus sees its task as enabling teachers to play a more active role in their own professional development, creating the networks that can assist teachers to identify best practices in teaching and learning and bringing SADTU to the centre of teacher professional development activities nationally.

Since inception in 2010, we have been engaged in the following strategic areas:  

Teacher led professional development    

At the school level, the education system is made up of various strata, from the teacher, to the in-school subject committee, to the cluster level, etc. Continuous   professional development has to take place from the level of teachers upward. The Institute’s approach therefore emphasises the role of individual teachers and their peers in professional development and ensures that most of the responsibility for teacher development lies with the teachers themselves. This approach     makes teacher development less of an offsite activity and a more concentrated, teacher led one, calling for greater involvement of teachers in their own professional development and more intensive interventions.

Through the SCNPDI District Based Professional Development Programme we have   managed successful lead teacher training activities.

Resources for Teachers

While we have developed training resources that have been used in the workshops we have undertaken throughout the country, we envisage networking with relevant stakeholders to provide teachers with materials that they can use for self-directed learning and professional development activities in their clusters. These resources will be made available through this website.

Collaboration and Networking

We recognise the importance of collaborating with established organisations to enhance our capacity and have initiated working relationships with the Tshwane University of Technology, which assisted with implementing the Institute’s Assessment for Learning Programme, and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, which implemented the School Management Team Training Programme.

Trade Union Education

The SCNPDI, in consultation with SADTU, conceptualised a Trade Union Education Programme which targets school managers with a view to bringing them to the same level of understanding of labour relations as shop-stewards. This initiative was informed by the realisation that shop-stewards are more conversant with labour relations legislation than their school level managers, the majority of whom are SADTU members. The intention of the programme is to proactively maintain labour peace and appropriate application of labour relations regulations in educational institutions.

National Professional Development Support Programmes

The Institute engages in key strategic professional development training programmes for implementation both at national and district level.  The programmes are demand driven in response to teachers’ needs and supply driven in that they complement the strategic teacher development goals of the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

Work with us

Get in touch with the SCNPDI to partner with us and help grow teachers and improve teacher professionalisation. At SCNPDI, we’re committed to the facilitation of economic growth and development.

© 2019 SADTU Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute

Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions