One-third of South African teachers are categorised as 'unqualified'. This paper reports on a study which evaluated an initial teacher education programme which is offered to 'permanent unqualified' teachers through the distance education mode. The merger of three teacher education institutions in the KwaZulu Natal region formed the South African College of Open Learning (SACOL). SACOL operates on two campuses - one in the Durban area and the other in the Pietermaritzburg area. This study was conducted just after the merger but prior to the incorporation into a university.
One-third of the SACOL students are registered for certificate and diploma courses. These students are mostly African (98%) and female (88%) and about 60% started teaching after 1992. Half these students teach in the foundation phase and three-quarters teach in rural schools. The staff at the college is well qualified and has had experience in the educational system. The SACOL curriculum is delivered through materials (study guides, tutorial letters, assignments, feedback to assignments), contact sessions and sessions at regional learner centres. The quality of the materials and the contact sessions are varied. There is a large wastage in the system because of the high attrition rates and low performance in examinations. The training is designed to gain a qualification and not necessarily to impact on classroom practices.
Analysis of this mode of initial teacher education training raises issues such as: (1) the cost of the trade-offs made in situations of amalgamations and incorporations of educational institutions, (2) what is the best mode of delivery to train effective teachers, (3) the suitability of distance education for initial training, (4) the organisation, administration and staff of distance learning programmes, (5) quality of distance education programme, (6) role of teaching practice in this model of initial training, (7) cost effectiveness of an initial training programme which is offered through distance education.
Sussex, UK: Centre for International Education, 37 pp.