What makes a Good Teacher in an unequal education system?

What makes a Good Teacher in an unequal education system?

Education is a vehicle of socioeconomic change and by providing equitable and quality learning for their citizens, countries (such as Poland according to The Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017) are able to leverage a more productive workforce and, according to Erica A. Hanushek and Ludger Wößmann, affect their economic growth.

According to the IMF Working Paper Struggling to Make the Grade (prepared by Montfort Mlachila and Tlhalefang Moeletsi), South Africa still suffers from “significant challenges in the quality of educational achievement by almost any international metric.” According to World Bank’s  Human Capital Index (HCI) for 2020 , South Africa ranks 135th out of 174 countries and a South African learner can expect 10.2 years of basic education by the age of 17, but when adjusted for quality, this is equivalent to 5.6 years of learning.

Why do South African learners perform so badly?

 According to their paper, the main explanatory factors are complex and multifaceted, and are associated with insufficient subject knowledge of some teachers, history, race, language, geographic location, and socioeconomic status.

The paper argues that the battle is usually won or lost at primary school. Meaning that the greatest focus should be on the foundation and intermediate phase as this impacts a learner’s entire academic career moving forward. Also, at a primary and secondary level, South Africa’s education system is bimodal. Meaning that the poorest 75–80 percent of learners depend on dysfunctional public schooling and achieve poor outcomes while the wealthiest 20–25 percent of learners enrol in private schools and functional public schools and achieve better academic outcomes.

According to their findings, the bimodality of South Africa’s education system is perpetuating economic

inequality through employment and earnings channels. Poverty incidence rates and

unemployment rates are distributed according to levels of education and race.

What are the qualities of a good teacher?

According to the Varkey Foundation, The goal of providing equitable quality education for every child will only be achieved if all children have access to a quality teacher. Their report on the Qualities of Effective Teachers Who Teach Disadvantaged Students aims to inform policy makers across the globe and lead to improved policies to attract, develop, and retain effective teachers to serve the most disadvantaged students.

In their study, the participants were asked an open-ended question about the qualities they possess that help them meet the learning needs of their students and the top qualities were:

  1. Compassion/love/kindness
  2. Empathy
  3. Patience
  4. Grit/perseverance

They also asked the participants which qualities they felt were the most important in effectively meeting the learning needs of all students and the main qualities shared were:

  1. Empathy and the ability to relate to student
  2. Creativity
  3. Passion for teaching
  4. Continuous improvement
  5. Commitment

The overwhelming response from the participants was that in order to be effective, teachers need to be able to connect and empathize with students. Relatability is very critical, one of the participants elaborated. There is more respect offered to teachers for being relatable than for being seen as an authority or an expert. The level of respect is about how much or how quickly students can connect and understand your point of view rather than what you know.

How to select good teachers

That is why it is so important for us that we source, nurture, and retain passionate, dedicated, and caring staff. By providing the right people with the right tools and support we have been able to achieve seemingly insurmountable odds and are thriving.

We’ve seen real change, not just among our students but also among our staff, the parents, and the community at large.

We boast an excellent pass rate record and several alumni have obtained bursaries at prestigious high schools that offer opportunities to learners from vulnerable communities

Through our ECD teacher training centres situated across the country we are working towards addressing access to quality education at its very core. By providing our teachers with the tools, facilities, training, and support needed to do and be the best that they can be, we are delivering the quality education to the most vulnerable learners in our community. And through initiatives such as our parenting skills workshops and alumni support programmes we are building strong relationships to make a lasting impact in our community and contribute to bringing about effective socioeconomic change in our country.