Defend Truth


Yes, let’s pay teachers more, but let’s also raise the entry-level requirements for the profession


Mduduzi Mbiza is a Pretoria-born writer.

Combining salary increases with increasing the educational requirements to become a teacher has seen countries such as Ecuador, Brazil, Singapore and others prosper in terms of student learning. This led to Ecuador recording the highest student literacy gains in Latin America during the past two decades when they combined the two policy reforms.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the One South Africa Movement, recently proposed a Twitter debate on fixing the education sector in South Africa and providing venture capital to young entrepreneurs from historically excluded backgrounds. He shared an article he wrote in which he provided his five ideas to fix our public education system. 

I want to address the first idea he proposed which is raising teacher salaries. While I totally agree with the notion of raising teacher salaries, I should warn that raising teacher salaries alone is not enough, especially if we want to improve learning and if we want to have the best teacher candidates in the system.  

What research has shown is that low teacher salaries often push teachers to get second jobs which reduce their energy and effort put into their teaching. 

Higher salaries, on the other hand, might attract less qualified candidates — due to the rise of unemployment in our country almost every student candidate wants to be a teacher or wants at least a low-qualifying career that also pays well. This makes it difficult to know and/or to select candidates with high competency.

Indonesia once raised salaries by more than a quarter for a subset of teachers for more than 10 years. The results from that research revealed that teachers were happier and they were less likely to hold a second job, but student learning remained unchanged and there was no improvement in the classroom.

It’s not just about attracting candidates into the teaching profession with good salaries, it’s about selecting candidates who will go on to be great teachers — we can’t attract the best candidates if the requirements are not set at a higher level.

Finland, for instance, has high requirements in place for students who seek to become teachers — to be accepted into the teaching profession, these students are required to have a master’s degree, including pedagogical studies and teaching practice.

Combining salary increases with increasing the educational requirements to become a teacher has seen countries such as Ecuador, Brazil, Singapore and many others prosper in terms of student learning. The period between 2006 and 2013 saw Ecuador record the highest student literacy gains in Latin America when they combined the two policy reforms.

We shouldn’t just raise teacher salaries; we should also tighten entry requirements for teachers to absorb the best talent. An increase in salaries should be accompanied by higher entry requirements.

However, this article is part of a wider conversation because salary increases and hiring the best teachers are not always enough to improve student performance, but combining them gives schools a better chance and is a step forward. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Clare Rothwell says:

    A Finnish expert was asked how teachers are assessed there. He responded that there was no question of assessment – instead, the government strives to support their teachers.

  • John Strydom says:

    Having trained teachers myself, it seems to me that the only way to improve the present situation rapidly is to have mentors present in classrooms to give feedback to teachers in order to improve their teaching skills and to identify the gaps in teachers’ knowledge. Programmes and incentives can then be provided for teachers to improve their knowledge. Increasing entry-level qualifications is a good long-term strategy, but we need to see a change now.

  • Nanette JOLLY says:

    We need MORE good teachers and MORE good schools. Urgently, as a priority. People can do almost everything for themselves outside of essential infrastructure but they do it better when well educated. And make a better electorate.

  • Steve Smith says:

    Over the years, I have known many people passionate about teaching, who have either not gone into the profession, or left it, because their salaries are too low. So, increasing salaries would be a good start. Additionally, whilst improving their academic profiles can never be a bad thing, this does not make these people better teachers!! A lot more emphasis needs to be placed on creating better teachers, and preferably one’s who are passionate about their job too.

  • Josine Overdevest says:

    In addition to higher salaries and high entry requirements, we should also better nurture and grow the potential of young teachers who graduate with just the 21st century skills to improve student learning. At Flying Cows of Jozi we employ a number of them to activate digital resources in schools and coach older teachers how to confidently use these. They are skilled and passionate about the teaching profession and we believe they hold the key to accelerating radical change in the sector. Sadly many young teachers with BEd Hons degrees are unemployed or in roles at schools where their valuable skills are not utilised or even recognised. They then decide on alternative careers or leave the country taking their valuable STEM skills with them to teach English in China.

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