A framework for the improvement of the professional working conditions of teachers in South African secondary schools
Emekako, Reymond U.
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Teachers’ working conditions encompass the quality of infrastructural facilities, the value of school leadership and the opportunities offered for teacher development in schools. Teaching and learning are affected by the state of the work environment and the conditions under which teachers must work. Research scholars have raised concerns about the working conditions of teachers but very little research has been done on this topic in South Africa. This problem is highlighted in national policy plans as being critical for development, thereby leaving a huge vacuum in the teaching profession. Across 34 countries and five continents, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has been investigating this problem since 2008 through an ongoing Teaching and Learning International Survey, but Africa has never been included. This survey has focused on five thematic areas, namely the value of school leadership, appraisal and feedback of teachers, professional development, teaching opportunities for improvement, and school climate and job satisfaction. No such study has been reported in Africa or South Africa in particular. To close this gap, the current study measures the extent of the challenges of teachers in their professional environment using a similar thematic approach to the survey mentioned above, with the intent to develop an improved Professional Working Conditions of Teachers Framework for public secondary school teachers, to encourage improved educational practice. The explanatory sequential design was employed in a mixed methods approach taking two empirical phases for conducting the study. Krejcie and Morgan’s sampling technique was used to determine a sample of 384 teachers from the study population of teachers working in secondary schools. Teachers in International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) levels 2 and 3 were selected as respondents using different layers of sampling techniques to cater for generalising of the sample to South Africa for the first phase. As a follow-up to the quantitative research of the first phase, principals and district officials were interviewed. Data was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science and Atlas-Ti software. The former was used in computing descriptive statistics and multivariate analysis, which included cluster analysis and analysis of variance. The latter was used to conduct a thematic analysis using open and axial coding to generate codes and categories. Validity, reliability, trustworthiness, and ethical procedures were duly ensured through approved procedures. The main findings of the study show that despite the fact that self-managed schools support participatory management styles, the South African education system still retains traces of authoritative management styles reminiscent of apartheid education. Also, apart from dealing with demanding administrative functions, many school principals are obliged to teach in the classroom owing to low supply of teachers to schools. The Integrated Quality Management System (a central tool to improve teaching by using appraisal and feedback to teachers) is a failure; school management teams currently use internal appraisal and feedback mechanisms. However, school management does not implement all the options of appraisal available to them. The South African Council of Educators has failed with the implementation of a professional development management system. Area offices are currently organising professional development activities for teachers, concentrating only on specific subjects and content, leaving out other aspects of teaching practice. In addition, teachers would rather be mentees than mentors to newly appointed teachers. Challenges regarding learner motivation, classroom management skills, an emphasis on learners’ rights, class size and minimal formative assessment seem to affect learning in the South African classroom. Teachers are not generally happy with the teaching profession but are satisfied with their individual performance; however, a culture that builds collaboration, participation, team relationships and communication needs to be installed to improve on the self-efficacy and satisfaction of teachers. This study recommends a holistic framework to consider all avenues for improved working conditions in a typical school environment. In addition, a monitoring and evaluation component specific to the work environment of the teacher should be set up, apart from the accountability systems currently used by the Department of Education.
- Education