“You’re quasi-scientific. You’re semi-scientific. You’re the margarine of science. You’re the Diet Coke of science. Just one calorie - not scientific enough.”
And that’s much how psychological and sociological study proceeds: Too many unknowns, too many unknown unknowns, ergo a glut of “explanatory” models.
Yup. When they do limit themselves to easily observable phenomena, they tend to do much better. E.g. the psychology of child development is on fairly solid ground in the sense that we can now quite accurately predict at which age kids learn which basic skills. Seeing as we know almost nothing about how the brain goes about learning those skills, we should hold off on the speculation-masquerading-as-learned-theory.
All of the aforesaid is to justify my view that the B.Ed. degree isn’t worth much. More than anything else, a teacher must know the subject they are teaching.
On this we are in agreement, to some extent.
Thus, a geography teacher should have a university degree (bachelor’s minimum) in one or other flavour of geography, and similarly for all other subjects.
I think it depends to some extent on the level at which you teach. For the lower grades one can require lower qualifications - you don’t need to be a doctor of math to teach grade four kids long division. This is actually one of the things that frustrates me the most about our education system: fer fook’s sake, it’s not rocket science to teach primary school kids to read! My brother taught me to read when I was six and he was ten. They did it with huge success in 19th century Britain and Germany, before they had any educational theories at all. Hunter-gatherer kids acquire knowledge equivalent to a university degree or two by the time they are 16, without any departments of education or “fully qualified” teachers. What on earth is it that we are doing wrong, one has to wonder. If a ten year-old kid can teach younger kids to read, then why the hell is it that our “fully qualified” teachers can’t do the same?
Anyway, for high school subject knowledge becomes ever more important, though I predict that you will never have enough people with a B degree in mathematics to fill all your vacant math teacher posts. I’m not sure it is essential either, but at least some university maths is probably essential. At the school where I teach, our grade 8 and 9 math teacher scraped through matric math and the other day admitted to me that her one pupil threw her off balance when he asked her how many zeroes a million has - she didn’t know offhand.
So why don’t they let me teach high school math then, seeing as I have B degree in zoology and did at least some first year math? Because I’m not fully qualified, that’s why.
So now you have the guy with the B. Sc. teaching the grade 5 and 6 classes, and the lady who scraped through matric math teaching the high school kids. In fairness, her B.Ed. specialization in in life sciences, and my impression is that with that she has reasonable subject knowledge. She’s teaching math for the moment because math teachers are almost impossible to come by. And I have to say she makes up in enthusiasm and dedication for what she may lack in knowledge.
I don’t really mind teaching primary school, because my experience tells me that it is there where everything goes wrong with math. When I tutored for a living, I noticed this time and again: the high school kids who struggle with algebra struggle because they fell through the cracks in primary school. By high school it is too late, and even an excellent teacher can often not do much to help because the kids are simply too far behind.
Only after graduation should a candidate be qualified to go on to a one-year teaching degree or diploma course, and this should focus on practical techniques and methods of teaching, presenting, testing and how to control, stimulate and discipline a class [i]in the candidate’s chosen subject and at the appropriate age level[/i]. It should also evaluate the candidate according to those skills. The teaching degree/diploma thus certifies that the candidate has the required subject knowledge and is also familiar with teaching skills.
Well, some years ago I started doing a postgrad teaching diploma but it was so boring and pointless I quit. I would suggest that instead of a formal diploma, teachers are appointed in assistant positions for a year or two to gain experience, and are then certified as qualified.
How does one make this arrangement attractive? I’ve always thought of teaching as more of a vocation than a job. Traditionally, this has been exploited in the wrong way by paying teachers meagrely. My suggestion is to exploit it more productively as follows: The abovementioned qualifications are not negotiable. Pay teachers really well, say at the level of actuaries or advocates,
Hey, I can live with that!
but with the proviso that they can only teach for a certain maximum period, say five or eight years. After that, they must leave their teaching post, never to return, and no exceptions.
But here you lose me - I would never go for a job that requires me to leave so soon, and I don’t think many other people would either.
However, SA’s labour laws would need some adjustments.
Heh, South Africa’s labour laws can do with adjustments anyway. They are well on their way to ripping our economy to shreds.
There are several points to keep in mind here. South Africa is a developing country. I do not think teachers earning the salaries of lawyers or actuaries are anywhere on the horizon yet. Government school teachers earn almost twice as much as what the free market would pay them (I would know; I work for a private school!) This is partly why they are so useless, perhaps - if memory serves, learned psychologists have discovered that people that are grossly overpaid get every bit as lazy and unmotivated as people who are underpaid.
But there are also other utterly disastrous policies that are neutralizing the work of teachers. For one thing, in many schools any and all discipline has basically been abolished. Under such conditions nobody learns much. Even more disastrous is the policy that a child may only be failed once in every phase (the school career being divided into three phases). Pass a kid who should have failed, and he falls irretrievably behind. Last year we got a new grade 5 girl from the government school across the road from us; she was completely illiterate. She did not even know that letters represent sounds. So how did she get to grade 5? Because it is government policy to “pass one, pass all.”
The kids who do work hard see this and eventually stop working. Why should they? They’re going to pass anyway.
Add to this the absolutely shocking parental neglect that a very substantial fraction of South Africa’s children suffer from, and you have a population of millions of seriously remedial kids. It’s a bit of a nightmare - much of our educational woes are due to factors out of the government’s control, mainly the unshakable belief among the majority of parents that they have no responsibilities whatever - it’s the government’s job to educate their children.
Last but decidedly not least: in South African schools, almost everyone teaches and learns in a language that is for them a second or even third language. The impact of that is often underestimated, I think.
Instead of focusing on the matric results, open up pre-school centres by the thousands, which kids attend from toddler age and where every day they are under responsible adult supervision, who stimulate them, play with them, and speak only English to them. That way, by the time the reach grade 1 level, much of the language problem has been overcome. The school where I work has such a preschool centre, and you cannot believe the difference between the kids who passed through our system and ones who didn’t.
While subject knowledge is important, there are limits to how many graduates we have available, and at primary school level I’m not sure you necessarily need a whole degree in the subject you teach. Perhaps any B degree will do.
I would go as far as to suggest that university students get a certificate of some sort for every year they passed, so that if someone flunks out after his first year, he has at least some sort of qualification to show for it. Surely someone who passed his first year at university knows more than someone with matric alone? Such people can conceivably work at my proposed preschool centres where they could do much good, and if they perform well there, perhaps be promoted to primary school.
And for heaven’s sake, bring back some discipline. We are not doing the kids a favour by allowing them to run wild.