The Faculty comprises three schools: the School for Undergraduate Studies, the School for Postgraduate Studies, and the School for Continuing Education. Close to 40 academic and support staff are involved in the training of students and in the day-to-day running of the Faculty. The main activities of the Faculty take place in the Central Lecture Block on the Mafikeng Campus.
During 2012, the Faculty of Education restructured in order to better position itself for the provision and delivery of learning programmes in the education sector. The Faculty offers the following programmes:
Bachelor of Education (BEd) (Foundation Phase).
Bachelor of Education (BEd) (Senior and Further Education & Training [FET] Phase).
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
Advanced Certificate in Education (various specialisations) (ACE).
National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE).
Honours Bachelor of Education (Hons BEd): Learner Support and Education Management.
Masters of Education (MEd).
Doctor of Education (PhD).
In the past, the Faculty focused primarily on the training of teachers. There are currently two categories of students: those who wish to enter the profession, and those who are already employed as teachers and wish to upgrade their qualifications. The latter group enrols for either an ACE or an NPDE programme. These programmes are offered off campus at various sites and only on certain Saturdays. “At postgraduate level, we specialise in only two areas, namely learner support, and education management, law and systems,” says Prof Gericke.
Although Faculty members have their own individual areas of interest, the Faculty itself intends to focus on research into matters related to discipline and the provision of quality learning in schools. Staff are involved in supervising students for masters’ and doctoral studies on a variety of topics. These topics relate to the fields of specialisation of the Faculty. Apart from supervision of students at the postgraduate level, staff are also involved in conducting research, which they publish as articles in subject-related journals, thereby contributing to the growth of the body of knowledge in their respective fields of study. The Faculty also focuses on providing assistance for schools and teachers.
A recently established centre for teacher development will be commencing with the design and delivery of shorter learning programmes for teachers. These programmes will be career-related and will focus primarily on school subjects, or learning areas, and the facilitation thereof in schools .The Faculty intends focusing its research efforts on practical and realistic problems within the school education sector, and particularly on finding and suggesting solutions to such problems.
Prof Gericke, who has been Dean of the Faculty since 2007, explains: “It has become increasingly important to expand the Faculty’s services in order to provide learning opportunities for educators. Therefore, it has been necessary to refocus on new types of programmes that will focus on the training of district officials and learning facilitators employed by the Department of Basic Education.” It is a challenge to steer the Faculty in view of all the changes in policy that have taken place within the Department of Basic Education. The Faculty has had to accommodate policy documents like Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements regulations on new qualification structures, and so forth, in its business and operations.
Higher-education managers are not necessarily formally trained for positions in the sector. There are, however, suitable qualifications available in the market and it is advisable that people who intend entering the sector should enrol for the applicable programmes. Prof Gericke believes that universities should invest extensively in developing and delivering academic programmes suitable for practitioners within the higher-education sector. “This could be done by offering continuing professional development opportunities like shorter learning programmes or registering management staff on whole learning programmes, that is, for full qualifications.
Vision of the Faculty
The Faculty’s vision is aligned with that of NWU. “We want to be a balanced Faculty focusing on teaching and learning and on research, but in the education sector (more particularly the school education sector).” The Faculty regards the commencement of the BEd (Foundation Phase) programme as a very positive achievement. The first group of students on this programme will graduate at the end of 2013. Furthermore, a dedicated physical facility for their training has been built, as well as two well-equipped natural sciences laboratories. It is hoped that the Faculty will attract enough matriculants to enter the teaching profession. “Presently, we get more applicants than we can accommodate. Obviously, the Faculty is limited in terms of enrolments, because enrolment numbers depend on the availability of space on campus, the allocation of Fundza Lushaka bursaries, etcetera,” elaborates Prof Gericke.
The education sector is facing serious challenges in terms of expectations, quality issues, opportunities, and so forth. There is currently a demand for approximately 15 000 new teachers each year, whilst the output of teachers from universities is only between 6 000 and 7 000 a year. “The education system has, for quite some time, being undergoing a process of change. This will continue, and therefore dedicated people are required to commit themselves to this career,” concludes Prof Gericke.
Teachers in Need:
A Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) revealed that South Africa is producing too few teachers, especially in key subjects such as maths and science. SA needs 15 000 more teachers a year. CDE statistics show that 67% of South African teachers are female, 77% of them being African and 67% of them are older than 40.
A teacher’s role involves more than simply standing at the front of a classroom and teaching. In fact, even though a teacher spends the majority of the day in the classroom, the actual teaching component is only part of the job. An effective teacher understands that teaching involves wearing multiple hats to ensure that the school day runs smoothly and that all learners receive a quality education.
At North-West University (NWU), the Faculty of Education aims to utilise available expertise to contribute to the development of human resources to meet the needs and challenges of school education in South Africa. Prof Dawid Gericke, Dean of the Faculty, believes that the main driver of teaching and research in the Faculty is the focus on the production of high-quality teachers, curriculum developers, education planners, administrators and researchers.
CASE IN POINT | NWU Mafikeng
by Shalane van Rensburg