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Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP07.2015

Publication date: 2015

IIt is commonly recognized that South Africa has a severe shortage of adequately qualified and competent teachers, owing in part to the insufficient production of qualified new teachers by the higher education system. This study uses aggregate data from the Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) to analyse the trends and underlying correlates of first-time enrolments and graduations in initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in the public higher education system between 2004 and 2013. The paper investigates six research questions: (1) What are the trends in initial teacher education programme first-time enrolments and graduations? (2) Are enough individuals enrolling in initial teacher education qualification programmes? (3) Are enough qualified potential new teachers being produced to satisfy current and projected levels of teacher demand? (4) What does the demographic composition and geographic distribution of new ITE programme students and graduates look like, and how has it changed over time? (5) What are the relative roles of first-time enrolments and ITE programme throughput in explaining observed levels of teacher graduate production? (6) Which groups of ITE students have the highest/lowest completion rates and how do completion rates at distance institutions (Unisa) compare with those at contact institutions? The findings show that first-time enrolments in ITE programmes have grown rapidly since 2006, followed also by a moderate rise in ITE programme graduations from 2008 onwards. However, while both enrolments in, and graduations from, ITE programmes appear to be on an upward trend, growth in the former has largely been restricted to Unisa, South Africa’s foremost distance learning institution, which now accounts for roughly half of all first time enrolment in initial teacher education programmes. This is potentially problematic for teacher graduate production since ITE programme throughput, while low overall in South Africa, is far lower still at Unisa than at contact institutions. It is therefore doubtful that the current rise in ITE programme enrolments will result in commensurate increases in ITE programme graduations. Despite current growth trends in ITE programme enrolments and graduations, South Africa is currently not producing sufficient numbers of teacher graduates. Projections indicate that the system could begin to produce sufficient numbers of graduates to satisfy projected teacher demand within the next decade, but only if current enrolment growth can be sustained without any drop in programme throughput rates. Yet, even if the country manages to produce sufficient numbers of ITE programme graduates in the next 10 years, it remains unlikely that the types of teacher graduates that are produced will be the same as the types of teachers that are most needed in the schooling system. This would be exacerbated by the fact that an ever-smaller percentage of new teacher graduates appear to enter the teaching profession in the public school system after graduating. To address South Africa’s teacher supply shortfall, greater emphasis is needed on ensuring that ITE students complete their programmes, specialise in high-demand subject areas and phases, and transition into the teaching profession with minimal delay.

JEL Classification:
I23, I28

teachers, ITE, higher education