Younger Teachers Are ‘The Heart of Education Recovery’

Recent graduates, and young teachers in the first five years of their careers, are at the heart of education recovery in South Africa – and developing this segment is crucial to staving off a schooling crisis, says private school network SPARK Schools.

Speaking on World Teachers’ Day on 5 October, SPARK Schools co-founder and CEO Stacey Brewer says that teacher training and attracting promising new teachers are two pillars of their strategy to provide quality education.

“SPARK Schools focuses on recruiting recent graduates, or young teachers in their first five years of teaching, and invests heavily in their professional development. All SPARK Schools educators get at least 245 hours of professional development annually, which is the equivalent of roughly a decade of development in a traditional school setting,” says Brewer.

“We have to bring our educators into the 21st century. We can’t rely on traditional teaching methods to try and deliver innovative education that makes a difference to our children. We need fresh faces, and for our more experienced teachers, fresh thinking and ongoing learning. That’s the only way we’re going to change our literacy levels as a country and give our youth the future they deserve.”

In the classroom at SPARK schools

The theme of World Teachers’ Day in 2021 is ‘Teachers are at the heart of education recovery’ and this is particularly relevant in light of a United Nations finding that while there’s a worldwide a shortage of trained and qualified teachers, sub-Saharan Africa faces the most urgent need – an estimated 17 million gaps have been identified – with 70% of countries facing an acute shortage at the primary level and 90% at the secondary level.

In South Africa, says Brewer, 40% of teachers have more than 20 years of teaching experience, and while this seems at first to be a good indicator that quality education is being delivered, the flip-side is that, by 2040, retirements will mean a shortage of around 100,000 teachers across all grades. There’s also concern around the capacity of tertiary education facilities to train teachers to fill these gaps.

“South Africa needs a new breed of teachers to meet the challenges of educating our youth in the 21st century – and it starts with giving them the expertise they need to ensure better educational outcomes,” says Brewer. “At SPARK Schools, we aim to build a nation through affordable, quality education.”