Wednesday, January 19

A wave of teacher retirement is about to hit South Africa: what it means for class size

The supply and demand for teachers is a complex matter. The ultimate goal is to have a teacher at the helm of each class, now and for the foreseeable future. This also implies an ideal class size. Obviously, the quality of teachers is also important, and theme Maybe another time.

In South Africa, the ideal class size is tacit and not explicit, as there are no rules on class sizes. Instead, it is the available budget and negotiated teacher pay that drive the number of teachers, which in turn largely determines average class size. But there are other factors at play as well, as we will explain.


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If South Africa reduced the pupil-teacher ratio from the current 30 to a typical level of a middle-income country of around 25, it would need 100,000 additional teachers. Government spending on schooling It is already quite high, so it would be difficult to pay so many more teachers.

Is it the problem that South African teachers get paid too much? We carry out an international comparison, using household assets to substitute for purchasing power. We found that the purchasing power of South African teachers was not that different from that of teachers in other middle-income countries.

There is a window of opportunity that has not received enough attention. There will soon be a big wave of retirements among South African teachers, peaking around 2030 and ending in 2040. New, younger and lower-paid teachers will have to take their place. But this opportunity comes with questions about the ability of universities to rapidly increase the output of graduate teachers.

Factors influencing class size

About half of South African primary school pupils attend classes with more than 40 pupils. Approximately 15% are in classes of more than 50 students. Averages and inequality are considerably worse than what is seen in countries like Chile, Indonesia, Morocco and Iran.

What explains the inequality? There are four key factors.

First, although the policy distributes teaching positions equitably, not all stalls are full all the time. Historically disadvantaged schools have the greatest difficulty filling positions.

Second, the policy does not take into account the classrooms. Based on enrollment, 20 teaching positions could be assigned to a school with 15 classrooms.

Third, there is evidence that poor schedules and misuse of instructional time result in too many free periods for teachers and too few classes being taught at any one time. This is especially the case beyond grade 3, where it is increasingly common for teachers to specialize in one subject in the curriculum.

Fourth, schools that are allowed to charge fees, which tend to be middle-class schools, may employ additional teachers and thus reduce the size of the classes.

The province in which a school is located plays a remarkably important role. Schools with similar student-to-educator ratios end up with classes of vastly different sizes, depending on the province. Monitoring graphic shows that in elementary schools with one educator for every 32 pupils, for example, the percentage of school pupils in a class that exceeds 40 pupils differs enormously. In Free State and Gauteng, this figure is around 30% of the students. In other provinces, it is more than double.

Student-educator relationship in the South African provinces.
Basic Education Department.

The pupil-to-educator ratios used in this graph include privately paid educators in public schools, so the presence of such educators does not explain the contrast. It seems that much of the explanation would lie in different approaches to using the teacher’s time. But this is an under-researched area.

Teacher pay

A number of influential reports they have argued that teachers in South Africa enjoy the standard of living of teachers in a country like Denmark.

We conclude that the evidence of sky-high salaries among South African teachers is wrong. It’s not just a problem with the South African numbers: Teachers from Nigeria they are said to be better paid than those in various European Union countries.

We argue that existing international comparisons of teacher pay suffer from two serious problems. First, how remuneration is defined, for example with respect to benefits and income tax, is often unclear, raising comparability issues. Perhaps most seriously, purchasing power parity indices are less reliable than is often believed. We address these issues by using household assets to provide what we believe is a more comparable measure of purchasing power.

Our conclusion that the salary of South African teachers is not in fact abnormally high substantially undermines the argument that reducing class sizes by paying teachers less and employing more of them is a viable or justifiable option.

Teacher retirement wave

It is very clear from the current age structure of the teaching workforce that there will be a big wave of retirements until 2040. The expected increase in the influx of younger teachers, who start their careers with entry-level salaries, will be large enough to reduce the average teacher salary in real terms by as much as 15%, according to an estimate, in a period of little more than ten years.

The demographic dividend will not be large enough to increase the teaching workforce by the 100,000 mentioned above, however, with careful planning and careful negotiation between the employer and the unions, one result could be a reduction in the numerous classes of workers. South Africa.

The flip side of this dividend is that universities will need to roughly double their annual number of teacher graduates by now and 2030.

New research, involving the Department of Basic Education and other stakeholders, on the precise effects of demographic changes will be published later this year. This will provide another piece in the supply and demand puzzle for teachers.

Tsekere Maponya, Deputy Director of the Education Human Resources Planning, Procurement and Monitoring Unit of the Basic Education Department, also contributed to this article.The conversation

Martin Gustafsson, Economist in education, Stellenbosch University

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.

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