The Teacher Demographic Dividend (TDD) project looks at the challenge of replacing older teachers, but it also offers the opportunity to renew the teaching workforce. The project seeks to understand these challenges and possible windows of opportunity created by this unprecedented demographic change.
This project is also a research project focusing on South Africa’s need for teachers in the next decade and beyond. About half of all government-employed teachers in South Africa will retire by 2035. Replacing them will be one of the country’s biggest challenges. Our aim is to establish a detailed understanding of the situation by:
- Developing a model that predicts the demand for and supply of teachers over the coming decades (Research Group 1);
- Investigating the effects that the wave of teacher retirements is likely to have on the education system (Research Groups 2 and 4); and
- Identifying windows of opportunity for improving education that will be created by the wave of teacher retirements, and making policy recommendations accordingly (Research Groups 3 and 5).
The project will take place over the course of three years (2022-2024) and will produce a large number of research outputs. The project currently involves 27 researchers affiliated with various universities, research organisations and independent consultancies, and the Department of Basic Education.
It is important to be aware of an impending need for more teachers, for the simple reason that teaching staff from the backbone of our schooling system. Without sufficient teachers, it would not be possible to educate our children.
However, significant changes in teacher employment patterns are also important from the perspective of government expenditure. Teacher salaries are the largest single line item in the South African budget: in 2022, teacher salaries accounted for one-third of all public sector wages at R222 billion, approximately 3,5% of GDP and 10% of total government expenditure. This means there may be some savings for the government, as older teachers (who typically earn higher salaries) are replaced by younger teachers (who typically earn lower salaries). The magnitude of potential savings will be explored through the project.
Finally, and very importantly, replacing a large percentage of the teachers currently in the system presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise the education system through an influx of new teachers – if we are able to ensure that the new teachers are competent and motivated professionals. The project, therefore, has a strong focus on improving teacher quality.