I.  Introduction


A.  Importance of Topic in Terms of Globalization

It is universally accepted that formal education is critical to a country succeeding in global competition in this modern, technologically-oriented world.  However, there are many challenges that face nearly every single public educational system.  Perhaps the most significant, outside of the constant ‘budget crunch’ that strikes nearly all public sector industries, is teacher retention.  With very few exceptions, nations as a whole are faced with a growing disenchantment in the teaching profession.  While certain countries do not yet face a crisis in attracting and retaining teachers, nearly every country is becoming concerned that the current levels of credentials, abilities and ‘professionalism’ amongst teachers need to be improved.  Further, every country is aware that retaining teachers who are considered highly qualified and competent is becoming more difficult.

Much research has been done on this topic.  One succinct example of such information comes from Harold Press, who did his doctoral thesis in education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  According to his research, many of the more ‘developed’ countries in the world are experiencing just as acute of a problems as many less developed countries:


In recent years there has been a growing concern in many parts of the developed world about imminent critical teacher shortages. Numerous published reports have highlighted public concerns about potential teacher shortages in countries such as France (Henderson, 1992), Australia ("Teacher shortage looms," 1994), and England (Rafferty, 1992). In the United States national studies have been completed through the National Center for Education Statistics (Boe, 1990; Ancarrow, 1991; Choy, Henke, Alt, Medrich and Bobbitt, 1993; Jabine, 1994) and regional studies have been completed by many state education departments (Bowers, 1991; Barnes, Bass and Wakeford, 1986). In Canada, studies have been focused at the provincial level (Atkinson and Monk, 1986; Alberta Education, 1988; Smith, 1989; Press, 1990; Samson, Sullivan and Uhl, 1991); Horsman, 1992; B.C. Teacher Supply and Demand Committee, 1993; Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, 1995). 

B.  Selection of Countries

In terms of public education, Canada and South Africa are at nearly opposite ends of the spectrum.  Until fairly recently, Canada, the largest, nearest and most similar neighbor to the United States, had a strong public educational system.  The educational levels of the population were extremely high, the general society was fairly egalitarian, and teachers were paid well and given respect by their society.  Today, the system is entering a decline, especially in regards to teachers.  On the other hand, South Africa is still considered a ‘third-world’ country, a victim of general poverty and apartheid, only recently beginning to shake off the burden of both.  Because the rich, white minority hoarded education in exclusive private schools, schooling and teachers were virtually unknown to the general population.  Yet the two countries recently formed an alliance to battle that common problem, partially because they both still recognize their European roots, and partly because their common forms of government named each other ‘sister’ countries.

C.  Goal of Research

There are many factors associated with teacher attrition.  Because the ‘budget crunch’ is always a concern, low compensation (pay and benefits) is a major deterrent to either entering or remaining in the profession.  Other factors include long hours, a growing trend towards expansion of the responsibilities of teachers, a perceived antagonism between a school’s administration and the teachers, frustration with both students and parents in regards to motivation, discipline and declining skills, and a general feeling of a lack of respect for teachers in the classroom, in the community, and in society as a whole.  This paper is meant as an exploration of some of those factors, juxtaposing various elements of the problem in the countries named above.  This paper will also explore some of the efforts being made in those countries to alleviate or solve this problem.

D.  Organization

This paper will follow the exact organizational structure dictated in the handout.  In order to set our ‘baseline’, I will begin with a description of the general situation in the United States in regards to teacher attrition and retention.  Because Canada is relatively similar, I will explore their recent past and present situation.  South Africa will serve as essentially the other end of the spectrum, providing a perhaps shocking glimpse into how ‘the other 60 percent’ lives.

I will then give interpretations of why I believe the situations are they way they are, and set up a table juxtaposing the findings from my research.  I will then give comparative views, using views from experts in those countries to augment my interpretations.  In my conclusion, I will give a general prognosis for the future based on what the research claims each country is doing to alleviate the problem.



Overall, teacher earnings in real terms (i.e., in comparison with cost of living increases and other economic factors) are falling.  While this is noticeable in all countries, including the United States and Canada, it is particularly true in most African nations.  A 2005 UNESCO report provided the following information:


Over time, teacher earnings have tended to decline, relative to those of comparable groups.  This is to some extent a natural result of the global increase in numbers of educated and trained people: the relative scarcity of people potentially able to join the profession has lessened. Similarly, progress towards universal provision has limited the ability of governments to increase real average salary levels regularly. Table 4.10 shows the trend in average primary school teachers’ salaries in developing countries from 1975 to 2000 in relation to per capita GDP. They began the period more than six times as high as per capita GDP, but by the turn of the century the ratio had been nearly halved. In much of Africa, teacher earnings were actually lower in real terms by 2000 than in 1970 (around one-third of its former level); the recent figures are often just the latest manifestation of decline.


1.  United States  

According to the National Center for Education Statistics in its August 2004 report, “Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the Teacher Follow-up Survey, 2000-01,” the United States spent approximately 4.6 % of its GDP in 1991 on an average per capita income of $21,423, and continues to spend approximately the same amount.  Out of the reams of statistical tables produced by the NCES, there were two that stood out the most to me.  For the total percentage of public and private school teachers who stayed in the teaching profession, 15.6% earned less than $30,000 per year, 34.7% earned $30,000 to $40,000 per year, and 49.7% earned $40,000 or more per year.  For the teachers with one to three years of experience who left the profession, 54.1% earned less than $30,000 per year, 35.5% earned $30,000 to $40,000 per year, and 10.3% earned $40,000 or more per year.

In the first place, the above statistics are national figures produced by an independent national research program.  In the second place, they are highly correlated to the numbers found in many other similar studies.  Therefore, while many teachers say they do not get into the profession for money, it is clear that the paucity thereof drives many of them out of the profession.  This is especially true during the early years, when the pay is very low, long-term benefits such as tenure and retirement funds have not been accrued, and the difficulties of the profession are especially acute.

One of the increasing dilemmas of teaching is that the qualifications to become fully-credentialed have risen dramatically over the past 15 – 20 years, while salaries have increased only marginally.  A rather interesting statement on the subject of the need for teachers and their attrition rate comes from “Teacher Attrition: Is Time Running Out?” by Janice Croasmun, Donald Hampton and Suzannah Herrmann in 1997:

Some teachers leave the profession because they are dissatisfied with their salaries.

According the 1987-88 Teacher Follow-up Survey, 4.5% of public school teachers stated salary as a main reason for leaving the profession. In the private schools, 9.1% of private school teachers stated salary as a main reason for leaving the profession (Bobbitt, et al., 1991). Theobald (1990) notes from his study that salaries are positively related to decisions to continue teaching in the same district. Even previous research suggests that salary provides a reason for teachers to change careers. According to Bloland's and Selby's (1980) review of the literature, salary appears to be an important factor in the career change of male educators, but not female educators.

Teachers leave for higher paying jobs in other professions. Although teachers' salaries have improved in recent years, they remain low compared to those of other similarly-educated workers. Overall, US teachers earn much less than other workers with the same amount of education and experience. In 1991, beginning teachers' salaries of $19,100 ranked above those of service workers, but below those of every other occupation held by recent college graduates, including clerical workers, technicians, and laborers. It was substantially below the $30,000 or more paid to beginning computer programmers, engineers, and health professionals (Fineman-Nemser, 1996).

An interesting note related to attrition is that discrepancies in teacher salary across districts and states can also account for teacher shortages. There are large inequalities across districts in teachers' salaries and teaching conditions. As a consequence, teacher shortages are common-especially in fields like math and science (although this contradicts the results at the national level stated above) where competing occupations offer more attractive opportunities, and in cities and other low-wealth districts where salaries and working conditions are not competitive. Teachers' salaries also vary greatly among states. For example, salaries in 1990-91 ranged from $20,354 in South Dakota to $43,326 in Connecticut. Even within a single labor market, there is often a margin of difference in teachers' salaries based on the wealth and spending choices of the various districts. Typically, teachers in affluent suburban districts earn more than those in central cities or more rural communities within the same area. These variations contribute to a surplus of qualified teachers in some locations and a shortage in others. These variations also influence teacher retention, especially new teachers. Those who are better paid tend to stay in teaching longer than those with lower salaries (Fineman-Nemser, 1996).  

Naturally, there are also the emotional and humanistic reasons that teachers leave the ‘calling’, as many feel it is.  Martin Haberman (2004), a professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee School of Education, discussed both monetary and personal reasons for attrition when he wrote:


School districts simply aren’t holding onto their teachers. Therefore, funds that should be used to teach our children are used to recruit and further educate teachers who keep leaving the school districts at a cost of around $2.6 billion annually.  

Most teachers enter the profession with a basic understanding that their role is to get into the trenches and work with the kids six hours a day, five days a week. Most teacher candidates assume that there will be some fun in working with children and that there will be gratification in preparing those children for their future. Those who look at teaching as a lifelong career realize that teachers don’t move up in their profession unless they actually leave the classroom. As a result, lifelong teachers are the perpetual foot soldiers in a profession that has an overabundance of officers leading the ranks.  

Surprisingly, teachers who have accumulated many years of experience are not seen as sources of good information about what works and what doesn’t. Teachers can’t tell administrators what to do. Instead, administrators rely on unsubstantiated studies published by those sitting in “ivory towers”. Much of the left leaning pedagogy touted by these university professors is about as far fetched as Fahrenheit 9/11, yet teachers are supposed to implement their ideas without question, despite an infinite wisdom accumulated through years of lesson planning and real world practice.  

Schools of education blame the school districts for poor work conditions. Others cite schools of education, who are graduating these eventual failure/quitters, as the problem. These schools receive funding based on how many students are enrolled and graduate, not based on how long these graduates stay in their profession. It is suggested they are not screening teacher candidates appropriately.  

Neither of these scenarios is close to correct in outlining the reasons for attrition. Many school districts are simply letting their teachers go –even though it’s expensive to do so. True, schools of education are churning out graduates and there are probably some who should not ever go into a classroom. But school districts look for reasons to get rid of experienced teachers. They cost more money. They get set in their ways because after they figure out what works, they want to keep doing it. They don’t want to be micromanaged.  

Mr. Haberman goes on to offer ‘proof’ that school districts deliberately get rid of older, more experienced teachers in order to save money.  What is perhaps more interesting, however, is that many political pundits wish to place the blame for our national crisis on certain ultra-conservatives in the Republican Party.  In many respects, this argument centers around politicians ‘blaming’ teachers and schools for falling test scores and academic achievement levels when measured against other developed countries.  While it is certainly safe to say that many teachers are losing (or have lost) the belief that teaching is a valuable, respected profession in much of the United States, certain researchers believe this is a deliberate attempt to destroy public education in favor of a much more privatized system.


For example, in 1994 Glenn Elert claimed that: “School choice would not be an issue today were it not for the neoconservative interest in education during the Reagan-Bush years and its focus on ‘choice’ as the preferred method of educational reform.”  He also states that the Reagan/Bush ‘conspiracy’ had a whipping boy that took the brunt of the criticism: “Any neo-conservative summary of the status of education in the United States must begin with the report of the National Commission for Excellence in Education – A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. In order to understand the basis of their discontent we must look to the oft repeated mantra of the Commission.”  According to Elert, this policy was truly a conspiracy.

First, the test figures quoted by the Commission were unadjusted for changes in the demographics of the test-taking population. Recent renormings of the major standardized tests show the test score decline was never really as deep nor as prolonged as was originally claimed. There never really was a genuine decline in SAT scores. When one examines renormed averages, a surprising phenomenon occurs –while the average of all students taking the test has indeed declined, the average of any normed subgroup has risen rather steadily. The apparent paradox is caused by an increase in the number of students taking the test from the bottom half of the class (Carson, Huelskamp & Woodall). More students are aspiring to achieve a college education today than ever before, including those for whom it is a greater challenge. This seems to indicate that American students view their education in a more serious light than was previously believed.  Second, the period of genuine test score decline occurred long after the experimentation of the 1960s was swallowed up in the back-to-basics emphasis of the 1970s.  

The timing of the explanations is off. The greatest decline in standardized test scores took place between 1971 and 1978 [while most of the radical social movements] took place between 1968 and 1971. Blaming the decline on the effects of social unrest in the schools may be fashionable, but the middle to late 1970s were years of educational retrenchment, characterized by a renewed emphasis on the basics.... The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills [for example] showed general improvement with scores rising dramatically between 1977 and 1984. The National Commission on Excellence in education, with its dire warnings of 'a nation at risk' in 1983, was about five years too late. Instead of a 'rising tide of mediocrity,' A Nation at Risk should have proclaimed a rising tide of test scores (Stedman & Kaestle 204, 207, 208).  

Signs of a crisis blown all out of proportion are beginning to surface in other research endeavors. A Department of Energy initiated report by the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico calls into question much of the crisis reported in “A Nation at Risk”, including test score decline and the unfavorable comparisons of American and foreign students. Their rather comprehensive research portrays the nation's school system in a more realistic light. Based largely on existing data, the Sandia researchers found that high school completion rates in the US are among the highest in the world, that SAT score decline has been caused by changes in the demographics of the test-taking population, and that comparisons between American and foreign students are invalid due to the selective – often elitist – nature of overseas educational systems. In addition, claims that increased funding have not lead to increased educational outcomes ignore the fact that additional expenditures have gone almost entirely to special education and transportation (Carson, Huelskamp & Woodall).  

These findings are completely at odds with the neoconservative party line. Controversy surfaced in 1991 when reports began circulating that the Bush Administration was involved in suppressing the Sandia study because of "conflicts with its own rhetoric." For nearly two years the authors of the report were not in a position to respond to or even talk about their study. Education Week reported that "the Sandia researchers 'were told it would never see the light of day, that they had better be quiet,' [and] one source said 'I fear for their careers'" (Miller 1, 32). The irony of the Sandia report is that it was initially undertaken in response to challenges to the national laboratories from the notoriously pro-market Bush Administration to become more involved in education. The selective analysis of data to substantiate ideologically based policy reforms typifies a great deal of the purported evidence for neoconservative choice programs.

            Perhaps ironically and perhaps not, the current President Bush is accused of practicing similar tactics in order to further the policies ascribed to Reagan and Vice President Bush.  In an article entitled “Child’s Play? The Bush Administration’s Misuse of Data”, David Rosnick (1993) accused the U.S. Department of Education of showing graphs that deliberately exaggerated the federal financial contributions to education, while denigrating the results of public schools in spite of “all of that money”.   While the statistical figures mentioned are not included in this paper, specific statements include:

1.         Figure 1 leads the viewer to believe that federal education appropriations to elementary and secondary schools accounted for only 3.5% of all K-12 expenditures in 1999.[1][2]  Figure 2 shows all K-12 spending.

2.         Figure 1 provides little information as to what the test scores are measuring and whether this is the only measure of student achievement. The choice of scale is also misleading: 500 is the highest possible score, but it is placed near the bottom of the graph, making it seem low. In 1999, 90% of nine-year-olds scored between 173.4 and 285.4 on the reading test, but this is not evident from Figure 1. Figure 2 scales the test from scores of 208 (“Basic” 4th grade understanding) through 238 (“Proficient”) to 268 (“Advanced”).

3.         Finally, the Department of Education fails to clearly specify what scores are presented – the average, the median, the high or the low scores. Figure 2 shows median test scores, meaning that 50% of nine-year-olds scored over, and 50% scored under that level.

While Elert and Rosnick are undoubtedly political opponents of the Presidents Bush, and may well have personal or political axes to grind in condemning those administrative policies, many more objective critics have taken those policies to task, albeit generally much more politely.  In “Bush and Democratic Coalition Unveil Education Reform Plans”, a School Administrators Article by Diane Weaver Dunne in a 2001 edition of Education World, the author presents the generally bi-lateral education budgets presented by Bush and certain Democratic party members.  While she describes many similarities, she notes two major differences: the Bush plan endorsed school vouchers while the Democrats did not, and Bush introduced the “No Child Left Behind Act”, which was not heartily endorsed by Democrats.

Bush's plan linked federal dollars to specific performance goals, which relied on standardized test in math and English. If schools failed to make ‘adequate’ yearly progress for three consecutive years, the Bush plan would allow disadvantaged students to use Title I funds – $1,500 – to transfer to a higher-performing public or private school. In regards to the latter issue, Weaver Dunne was very pointed in these remarks: “During the national election last fall, voters soundly defeated voucher proposals in Michigan and California. Teachers unions put their money where their mouths were. The California Teachers Association spent $22 million to defeat the California voucher proposition. In Michigan, the Michigan Education Association established a non-profit coalition that raised $6 million to defeat vouchers in that state.  But the unions had to put up a fight against the big money contributed by wealthy business owners: Silicon Valley’s Timothy Draper promoted the California measure to a tune of $20 million, and Amway founders Dick and Betsy DeVos backed the Michigan voucher proposal.”

In certain states, these problems are more exacerbated than in the majority of the nation.   In particular, California faces a teacher attrition rate that is one of the highest in the nation.  Even the California Teaching Commission on Teacher Credentialing lamented in 2003 that: “In fiscal year 2002-2003, California saw a 27% decrease in the number of emergency teaching permits, and a 39% decrease in the number of credential waivers.  The number of newly credentialed teachers dropped by 8% from the previous year.”  The implications of that statement were depressing for two reasons.  First, full-time (credentialed) teachers are declining.  Secondly, the people who step in to help breach the holes in the dyke, people with emergency credentials who either substitute or fill in long-term when a credentialed teacher cannot be found, are dropping off even more precipitously.

Kerry Mazzoni, State Assembly Member for the Sixth District, listed two causes for the problem in an article in 1999: “About 22,000 teachers are needed to fill our classrooms this year alone.  Over the course of the next decade, we will need an unprecedented 260,000 to 300,000 new teachers.  Class-size reduction alone has increased the need for qualified teachers by 100 percent.  Also fueling the fire is the fact that many education (sic) are reaching retirement age and the attrition rate is about 50 percent during the first five years of teaching.”  Mazzoni goes on to enumerate many of the challenges in recruiting the number of teachers needed for the future, but concludes: “…we will never attain our goal unless we increase salaries and improve the working conditions and facilities of our schools.”  While countless studies have shown that most teachers enter the profession for reasons other than high pay, the relatively low pay for the requirements and demands of the job, particularly in California, are seriously contributing to the attrition rate.

2.  Canada

According to much of the research available, Canada had a very strong and well-funded public education system until fairly recently, although it does not seem to be much more federally funded than in the U.S.  Nationally, Canada typically spends 7.3 % of their GDP on the system, with 82 % of the population earning a high school diploma through the early 1990s (Mazurek, Winzer and Majorek, 2000).  The average pay for all teachers in 1995 was US$ 36,948, with certain subjects and older teachers averaging US$ 55,000.  However, Canada seems to have begun facing many of the same issues that are plaguing schools in the United States, including diverse populations, lack of support from federal funding, and especially teacher attrition. 

Up to the past fifteen or so years, this high attrition rate was evidently peculiar to private, and perhaps more specifically parochial schools.  In an anonymous paper entitled ‘Framework for Inducting, Retaining, and Supporting Teachers’ describing the need for a dedicated program to recruit and retain teachers for the Lafourche Parish Schools, the paper claims the district was “faced with a new teacher attrition rate of 56%.  New teachers were inadequately supported. This led to the hiring of non-certified personnel, dramatically affecting student achievement.”

However, public schools obviously enjoyed an abundance of people entering the profession, because they were able to enforce a system whereby newly credentialed teachers could spend up to five years on the TOC (teacher-on-call, or “sub”) list, unless they could get a position covering the same class for six months straight.  According to Vanessa Richmond (2005), substitutes on the TOC typically earn about $15,000 a year.  “Not only were they disillusioned, they were also often too financially strapped to continue their work in teaching.”

That situation has deteriorated since the early 1990s.  In his doctoral thesis, Harold Press (2000) researched and described this changing condition:

In the past, public attention on education has generally centred on local issues such as school closure, resource allocation and taxation. Increasingly, attention has focused on educational standards, accountability, cutbacks and public confidence. Typically, teacher supply and demand are afforded public attention only during periods of severe teacher shortage. Nonetheless, the problem is not insignificant. Teacher supply and demand are critical policy areas for planning, program funding, and teacher training. Future teacher supply and demand have been a concern among educators for years (Barro, 1992; Horsman, 1992). Policy-makers began voicing concerns about an aging, immobile and expensive teacher workforce (Grambs, 1980).


The reasons for teacher attrition in Canada seem extremely similar to those in the U.S.  In a newspaper article that explained why she recently quit teaching, Ms. Richmond (ibid) gave some explanations to the growing negative statistics:

I never imagined what I’d find: in the developed world, there’s an emerging crisis in teacher attrition. Doune Macdonald is a professor and researcher at the University of Queensland who has published one of the key studies in the field, “Teacher Attrition: A Review of Literature”. She finds that depending on where they live, between five and 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years, with an average of 18.9 percent of all those under 30 leaving during that time frame.


Peter Grimmett, associate dean at the faculty of education at Simon Fraser University, has also studied teacher attrition extensively, and he positions Vancouver at about an average of 20 percent—not extreme, but far from insignificant. And Grimmett agrees with Macdonald’s findings: that regardless of location in the developed world, young teachers leave for the same five reasons.


According to the experts, those five reasons are: alienation and lack of support for new teachers; low pay compared to the pay for similar levels of education and skills in other professions; a decline in the status of teaching (which affects both how teachers perceive the job and how students and parents relate to teachers); increased bureaucratization/standardization (which leads to decreased creativity and power); and difficult working conditions (such as class sizes, lack of resources, and workload).


3.  South Africa

On the other end of the spectrum, South Africa is a relatively poor country with a pathetic history of public education.  In her online book, Maria Lizet Ocampo (2004) described the overtly discriminatory education situation that existed during Apartheid:

The Bantu Education Act created separate Departments of Education by race, and it gave less money to Black schools while giving most to Whites (UCT).   Since funding determines the amount and quality of learning materials, facilities, and teachers, disproportionate funding clearly created disparities in learning environments.   For instance, Apartheid funding resulted in an average teacher pupil ratio of 1:18 in white schools, 1:24 in Asian schools, 1:27 in Coloured schools, and 1:39 in Black schools (US Library of Congress).   Furthermore, the apartheid system also affected the quality of teachers. White schools had 96% of teachers with teaching certificates, while only 15% of teachers in Black schools were certified (Garson).   In addition to affecting the quality of education, the Bantu Education Act also resulted in the closure of many learning institutions since it withdrew funding from schools affiliated with religion. Since many church schools provided education for a large number of Blacks, the Black students were the ones most profoundly impacted by the withdrawal of these funds (US Library of Congress).   Although the government explained its actions under the premise of separation of church and state, eliminating schools that serve Blacks is an ultimate form of educational injustice.


Everything has changed in South Africa since the demise of Apartheid.  According to the internet site www.nationmaster.com/cat/Education (source unknown), the 2000 per capita GDP income was US $9,074.48, which was more than double the 1990 figure.  In spite of this relatively low GDP, the country spent 7.3 % of its GDP on education during the 1990s, meaning that the current government has taken great strides in supporting its educational efforts.  The total literacy rate for South Africa in 2000 was 86.4 %, which also soared after the abolishment of the Bantu Education Act.

While the money dedicated to education, and teacher’s wages, is obviously correspondingly low on an international scale, teacher attrition, per se, does not seem to be a problem.  According to the South African Minister of Education, Ms. Naledi Pandor (2005), the major problem with education in her country is not the lack of teachers.  “The larger picture reveals an over-supply of teachers in the country, and a very low actual attrition rate. Less than 5% of teachers actually leave in any one year – a rate of natural attrition that falls well below the United Kingdom, for example, which is at 12%, and most other countries that are above 10%.”  Rather, she claims that the problem was the chaotic manner in which individuals were hired and paid in the recent past (meaning before Apartheid was abolished), when there was not a governing body to regulate the profession.  In support of this, she stated: “We must appreciate the work done by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) in registering all teachers in public and independent schools, and bringing them under the authority of a code of professional ethics.”

However, if we accept the theory that there are plenty of ‘teachers’ in South Africa, we must then question the qualifications of those individuals to provide high quality education.  In addition, we must look at other aspects of the picture, such as what percentage of the population is actually receiving a public education and how much money the government is putting into the educational system now that Apartheid has been abolished.  Suzan Chala (2003) cited a report from a newly appointed ministerial committee which addressed this problem when asserting that: “A recent South African Institute of Race Relations survey states that South Africa will have to produce 30,000 teachers annually for the next 10 to 15 years to avoid a shortage, about 75% more than is currently being produced.”  In other words, there seems to be a great shortage of ‘qualified’ teachers in South Africa.

The question of qualified teachers is not the only issue.  Obviously, there is a huge discrepancy between the formerly white controlled school districts, the more wealthy mixed urban areas, and the overwhelming poor, black suburban or rural areas.  In an anonymous committee report regarding the educational situation, which followed the race riots in Soweto in 1996, we find the following information:

Education was compulsory for all racial groups, but at different ages, and the law was enforced differently. Whites were required to attend school between the ages of seven and sixteen. Black children were required to attend school from age seven until the equivalent of seventh grade or the age of sixteen, but this law was enforced only weakly, and not at all in areas where schools were unavailable. For Asians and coloured children, education was compulsory between the ages of seven and fifteen.


The discrepancies in education among racial groups were glaring. Teacher: pupil ratios in primary schools averaged 1:18 in white schools, 1:24 in Asian schools, 1:27 in coloured schools, and 1:39 in black schools. Moreover, whereas 96 percent of all teachers in white schools had teaching certificates, only 15 percent of teachers in black schools were certified. Secondary-school pass rates for black pupils in the nationwide, standardized high-school graduation exams were less than one-half the pass rate for whites.”


We might assume that, because there was little regulation in who was hired to be a teacher in most parts of South Africa, most of those who were paid wanted to remain in their positions.  In other words, it is not difficult to understand low turnover rates of paid positions in an impoverished nation.  This assumption was supported by Govender and Farlam in an article in the August 2004 edition of eAfrica, when they quoted one teacher’s union leader: “‘It is widely acknowledged that African teachers are poorly paid and sometimes don't even get paid for months,’ said John Lewis of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union.  ‘The profession does not pay and has also lost its status in many countries, and it is no surprise that graduates then opt to pursue other careers where they can make more money.’”

However, since the effort to centralize control of teachers began, there seems to have been some shift in the situation regarding more qualified teachers.  Prof. Maureen Robinson, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, presented the following research findings at the April, 2005 IPC/IDASA meeting:

The survey involved 21,358 educators in more than 1,714 randomly selected schools. The survey revealed that 55% of educators have considered leaving the education profession due to inadequate remuneration, increased workload, lack of career development, lack of professional recognition, dissatisfaction with work policies or job insecurity. Commenting on the 55% of respondents who would leave teaching if they could find similar salaries elsewhere, Olive stated that this potential attrition did not mean that these teachers would exit the system, but that they would perform poorly. The factors that prevented educators from considering leaving the profession were participatory decision-making, unity among colleagues in their dedication to teaching, and discipline among learners.


The average number of educators in the system has declined over the last seven years, from 386 735 to 368 548 in 2003/04, largely due to a reduction in the number of temporary educators in the system. Attrition (total loss) in the educator workforce fluctuated, declining from 9.3% in 1997/98 to 5.5% in 2000/01, before rising again to 5.9% in 2002/03.


This same paper goes on to cite two unusual causes for teacher attrition, AIDS (which has recently had an extremely strong impact throughout Africa) and the closing of colleges of education:

The resignation of educators accounted for 53% of all terminations – excluding contracts – by 2003/04. This emphasises the great need for skilled educators – particularly those trained in English, Mathematics, Science and Accountancy – as demand, fuelled by the AIDS impact, increases in other sectors.


The problem was partly caused and exacerbated by the closure of colleges of education in the 1990s. In the mid 90s there were 102 colleges and 30 higher education institutions (HEIs) involved in teacher education nationally. Currently, there are no colleges and only 24 HEIs involved in teacher education nationally. Access for rural students is made difficult by the closure of rural colleges of education. 86% of students in the province in the foundation phase are white. Another bar to access is the ending of service bursaries.


A recent book edited by Lewin, Samuel and Sayed (2003) on the South African educational situation summarized all of these various aspects of the system and its problems extremely well.

Teacher education in South Africa is in transition. The first wave of educational reform rightly focused on the need to develop a post-apartheid school curriculum and the new structures that were needed to support different approaches to learning. Teacher education was made a Provincial competence and left largely untouched until new norms and standards and a regulatory framework began to be developed. Recent developments in the governance, funding and rationalisation of post school professional development and training have now begun to address the pressing needs to convert ideas into structures and learning opportunities. The incorporation of Colleges of Education into the higher education system and the reform of the national curriculum for schools invite a reappraisal of methods and content.


No contemporary, empirically grounded and policy-orientated studies of teacher education in South Africa exist. The National Teacher Education Audit was the last major review and that has now been overtaken by events. The signs are that demand for teachers is set to rise sharply as a result of increased attrition and demographic changes. If this demand is to be met at affordable costs and through programmes of appropriate quality new thinking is needed.


While this approaching crisis may sound only slightly ominous at present, we must remember that most of the reports are specifically speaking of conditions in either formerly white-dominated areas, or mixed urban areas.  The conditions in poor, rural areas where there are few whites are vastly different.  One news report that gave an indication of such disparities was printed in a February 2004 bulletin of the National Union of Teachers, which read in part: “Four Scottish teachers are preparing to gain unique educational experience in poor rural South African schools as part of a pilot professional development exchange between the UK and South Africa.  The teachers will visit deprived schools in the poverty-stricken Limpopo Region, where class sizes of 80-90 pupils is (sic) considered normal.”

This small article in a U.K. publication may sound trivial, but it is echoed in many articles and research projects concerning South Africa and neighboring nations.  Govender and Farlam (2004) went on to state:

Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than half of primary-school age children go to school; enrolment in secondary school in 22 countries is below 20%; and less than 10% of the workforce has matriculated.  In the four decades since African countries started to gain their independence from foreign rule, their education systems – with few exceptions – have been marked by inadequate teaching, lack of resources like textbooks and chalkboards and colonial curricula and modes of instruction that often impeded the learning process. Literacy rates for Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, averaged 62% in 2001 compared with 89% in Latin America. While many countries claim to offer universal primary education, definitions vary widely. Some offer only two or three hours of instruction per day. Others, such as South Africa, offer six. The proportion of Africans living on less than $1 a day, meanwhile, now exceeds 60%.


But in key respects, evidence is starting to indicate the MDGs have backfired by stifling a broader debate on education in Africa. Where schools once coped with one teacher for 50 students, many have more than 100 students per teacher. Hit by HIV/AIDS and already inadequate teacher training colleges, many African countries –Tanzania, for instance – have made teachers out of high school graduates, often using those not good enough to move on to university. In Uganda, 17% of teachers have not been trained at all and 57% need to upgrade their qualifications.




Obviously, this is a very complicated picture.  Each country has its own history, its own set of problems, and its own motivations for following the course it is currently taking in revamping its educational system.  In this paper, we have seen two strong educational systems that are breaking down, and one country that is essentially striving to build its program from the ground up.

1.  United States


Interpreting the evidence above regarding the United States, it seems to me that various government structures are becoming increasingly and negatively involved with the educational system.  This is not only evident at the federal level, with many ‘unfunded mandates’, such as the NCLB Act, imposing unreasonable demands and extra burdens on school curricula and budgets, but also at the state level in some states.  Unfortunately, California, with our CAHSEE, CELDT, STAR, and other mandated testing and programming without adequate additional funding, is one of the most impacted states of all.  Most distressingly, however, in 1971 the California State Supreme Court gave the state legislature carte blanche to write initiatives changing the local district taxation and funding system when it ruled in Serrano v. Priest that differences in property tax revenue per pupil across school districts could not be related to differences in the property wealth of those districts (Carroll, S. J., Krop, C., Arkes, J., Morrison, P. A. & Flanagan, A. (2005).  Because it found the incumbent financing system unconstitutional, the court opened the door for the state to appropriate and control virtually all public funding (i.e., from property taxes) for public schools in California.

Therefore, the easy interpretation is that the government, at all levels, thinks it knows the best way to educate our children, and that local school districts do not.  In fact, politicians are simply using the public’s concern over the current state of our educational system (and especially teachers) as a ‘whipping boy’ to institute whatever pet theories they have or that they are paid to promote, and are driving the actual academic goals of educators into the ground by burdening them with political agendas that are meant to appease voters and get the politicians reelected rather than improving the system.

However, the most sinister interpretation of the political opponents cited above as to what is happening in the United States is that many politicians wish to see the public education system either eliminated or greatly reduced, replacing it with vouchers, corporate administration, or other forms of privatized education.  If these and many other similar claims are true, what would be the point of the Republican Party, or at least those ‘neoconservative party’ members and certain wealthy individuals, in trying to topple the public education system?  Simply put, money.

There are many billions of dollars spent on education each year in the United States, whether that money is federal, local, or private.  If the public education system were destroyed, or at least greatly reduced, those ‘neoconservative party’ members and wealthy people would not have to pay into a system which most of them do not use anyhow.  They could simply put their money into private education.  More importantly, however, the ‘special interest’ big businessmen and their lobbyists, who put untold millions of dollars into the pockets of legislators every day, would be able to control the flow of those educational dollars much more directly and intensely than they can today.  Further, as public education became less available, the nation would very much return to an elitist system based on the tools of the future, which are the strain of the brain rather than the sweat of the brow.  Thus, the power of ownership over labor would be restored in a way that the simple destruction of trade unions can never hope to accomplish.  According to many liberal political writers – including Elert above and the noted educational writer Jonathan Kozol – the return to an elitist educational and economic society is one of the hidden agendas of those wealthy and powerful Americans.

2.  Canada

In Canada, on the other hand, it seems that the national government is stepping in to try to help a failing situation.  There are two major problems I see from the evidence above regarding the Canadian teacher attrition rate.  Number one, the system of getting qualified teachers into full-time positions has been too rigid and restrictive, causing many people to leave the profession before they ever really enter it.  Number two, the previous perceived lack of urgency over teacher supply has caused compensation to remain stagnant, so that teachers are having a much more difficult time maintaining their quality of lifestyle relative to the current economy.

3.  South Africa

In some ways, I see the above information as very positive, in that South Africa knows it has recently come out of the ‘dark ages’ of education by toppling an elitist societal system, and wants very much to build a more egalitarian educational system and society.  Although the country is still basically impoverished, the government recognizes that a strong investment in the education of its citizens, beginning with a much stronger program to train and pay its teachers, is critical to its future success in global economic competition.  The government is committed to its investment in public education, including strengthening the training and compensation for its teachers.



Category of Comparison




Per Capita GDP (in US $)







% GDP Spent on Education




Average Teacher $




Projected Future




Literacy Rate




Projected Future




Major Issue

TOC System



/ Problems




Lack of Support




/ Alienation




Relatively Low




Pay for Quals




Decline in




Teacher Status












Decline in




Work Conditions




Attrition % Rate




First 3 Years






Higher Pay



Eliminate TOC

New TEIs










Outlook for




the Future








The comparison of the teacher attrition rates in the evaluated educational systems must of necessity be limited both by the information presented above and by the interpretations of that information by the author of this paper.  The question must be what the respective governments are doing to improve the attrition rate in order to improve the situation of their educational systems in regards to benefiting the general public, meaning the vast majority of their citizens.

In the United States, there does not seem to be any interest in a program to retain teachers, in spite of the growing concern by many people outside of the government.  While many districts and some states are trying to increase pay and/or benefits and implement new teacher mentoring programs, the federal government and the vast majority of states have not instituted any efforts to improve conditions for teachers.

In the 2001 report regarding the Lafourche Parish Schools, a concerted effort was made to improve their distressing attrition problem.  According to the report, this program has subsequently been copied by many private schools, and is even being discussed for public schools.

In 1996, Dr. Harry Wong, author of 'The First Days of School', was contracted to address the teachers of Lafourche Parish. The problem of new teacher attrition was evident. Dr. Wong suggested the implementation of an induction program designed to train, support, and retain highly qualified new teachers. He provided contact information which led us to research several of the most successful induction programs across the United States.


The program began as a one-year system of support and training for new teachers. It evolved into a highly structured, three-year process designed to attract, train, support, and retain highly qualified new teachers. The program begins with four days of initial training prior to the start of the school year. New teachers receive training in classroom management, first-day procedures, discipline, instructional strategies, and more. Support and training continue over a period of three years. New teachers are assigned mentors during their first year. Monthly support meetings, classroom visitations, demonstration lessons, and administrative support are ongoing.


Results: The new teacher attrition rate has been reduced from 56% to 12%; an increase in the number of certified teachers hired each year; a more competent, highly skilled teaching force; and a lower turnover rate has helped the school district realize financial benefits.


As stated above, the national government has become involved in discussions with universities and other institutions that either produce or are concerned with teacher training and retention.  Essentially, they intend to implement a similar program nationally. Govender and Farlam (2004) outlined what they felt needed to be done:

The problem must be tackled at four levels. First, the output of new teachers must be increased. That means more teacher colleges or more places in existing colleges. Second, the quality of instruction at teacher colleges must be improved. Adding more teachers will not solve the problem if they are not adequately qualified. Third, countries must take a disciplined approach to retiring under- or unqualified teachers and replacing them with new teaching graduates. Fourth, governments must work to improve teachers through in-service training. If teaching workshops are not feasible, school principals and senior teachers should monitor teachers in their classrooms and offer constructive advice on teaching technique. Studies by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) stress the importance of school-based support for educators and the lead role of head teachers in changing the way teachers teach. To be effective in their work, teachers need the support of principals, the broader education system, parents and communities.”


In her speech, Minister Pandor claimed that “…teachers are the heart of our education system and our key agents of change and transformation.”  In recognition of this fact, South Africa has recently begun an aggressive program to retain and improve the profession of teachers.  Ms. Pandor described the three main features of South Africa’s program:

School-based posts of senior teacher and education specialist have been created, which will allow for much greater promotion opportunities. In addition, an entirely new career path in ‘learning and teaching’ will allow a teacher to progress to the most senior levels - equivalent to a school principal - without ever leaving the classroom, and the next step would be into the subject advisory services…they would be able to earn up to R155,000 per annum (Note: equivalent to US$ 23,664.12). This will suit those teachers who are passionate about their subjects, and show real leadership in this regard, but who resist any kind of management or administrative position. Such teachers would however play a mentoring role in the induction of new recruits, and in supporting other teachers of the subject.  Second, the Minister of Finance recently allocated R4.2 billion over the next three years to improve the service conditions of teachers.  Third, in the past few years the department has allocated and ring-fenced a substantial portion of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme that has supported a number of trainee teachers.


In August of 1993, Andrg Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister announced the launch of a teacher recruitment campaign (Buys, 2003) that would implement many of the reforms mentioned above.



South Africa recognizes its challenges in regard to its overall educational system, and is actively working on improvement, including with the retention of qualified teachers.  Canada is confronting the fact that it is beginning to have a problem, and the national government is involved in discussions with organizations to help solve those problems before they become a major detriment to the country.  The United States seems to be engaged in a battle between private and public educational systems, with some states aggressively supporting public education and others, whether intentionally or not, moving towards demolishing the public education system.

In the global scheme of things, South Africa recognizes both is former ills in regards to society and education, and the need to effect major changes in both if it is to successfully integrate itself into and economically compete in the global market.  Canada obviously wants to retain its position as a leader in western nations, both economically and academically.  The United States educational trend seems to mirror a growing propensity for ‘outsourcing’ many jobs and industries; if corporate America does not see value in keeping its economy healthy on a national scale versus immediate, individualized corporate profits, then it obviously is not concerned with maintaining a strong public educational system.  Why put money into training workers if you are sending the work overseas?  While in the long run the American corporate attitude may reflect the increasing internationalization of business, the immediate impact is extremely debilitating to our national economy and educational system.

Regardless of the industry, technology is being incorporated into all aspects of life.  Even in agriculture, mining, forestry, and other formerly labor-intensive industries, computerized control systems are running machines that are increasingly doing more of the work.  Even most military organizations are ‘down-sizing’ because so many weapons and weapon systems are computer controlled.  Thus, many jobs in those industries are transitioning from in-the-field labor to computer operators and technicians, communications operators and technicians, and managers who understand the use and value of modern technologies.  In many of the economic articles we read in “World Watch”, the manufacturing industries were dragging national economies down, especially in Europe.  The main problem seems to be shifting from manual tasks to computerized tasks, which in the short run means lost jobs.

If all nations are to adequately prepare our youth for the future, we must recognize and accommodate those changes.  Graphic artists, business writers, mechanics, doctors, and many other ‘hands-on’ professions in typical corporate jobs are using computers to produce their work, whether that is for diagnostics or for performing tasks.  Newspapers are written, assembled and printed using computers and highly complex printing equipment.  The telecommunications industry is still growing by leaps and bounds.  Even the movie industry produces half of its special effects in computers these days.  As far as I can think of, only being a chef does not in someway necessitate using computer or telecommunications equipment.

One of the precepts for a good education, as stressed by the Makabayan in the Philippines, is “Information and Communication Technology shall be used in every learning area, wherever hardware and software (are) available.”  Ironically, this issue was discussed in the article “The Academy in the Age of Digital Labor” as being a negative factor, because Michelle Glaros decried the emphasis on technology and technical training, especially in writing, to the detriment of creative writing.  In many ways, this issue epitomizes the dichotomy between the United States, which thinks it is just fine the way it is, and most countries that recognize their limitations and wish to improve in order to compete in the global economy.

The reports we have heard in class indicate that,  given the budget, most countries seem eager to increase the technological training they give their youth, and would incorporate computers in every class if they could afford it.  Many countries are separating out school orientations to emphasize either traditional academics or technical skills.  In America, we still have the ‘college prep’ mentality where most schools are focusing totally on academics while eliminating or greatly reducing technical training.  In large part, I believe this is being driven by a false ideal of egalitarianism, whereby we not only want every child to have an opportunity to go to college, but practically force them.  This is, of course, fostered by increasing dependence on standardized testing as a one-size-fits-all measurement for who will ‘succeed’ and who will not.  Ironically, ‘tracking’ and other forms of segregating high performing students from low performing students is totally frowned upon.

In the article “Tradeoffs, Societal Values, and School Reform,” we saw where in England the system of ‘selective grammar schools’ was abolished, which has resulted in many less low-income students being able to enter prestigious universities.  That article contrasted the German system of deliberately tracking students, which eliminated many discrepancies in educational opportunities due to socioeconomic status.  Ms. Rotberg also cites the example of South Africa, which allows both tracking and the infusion of funds into public schools from wealthy parents, because tracking will occur through private schooling if parents who have the means are not allowed to improve the education their children receive.  This latter phenomenon has also occurred in the United States in districts that allow parents to directly contribute funds, such as the school districts in Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga.  Although public schools, they are rated as highly as virtually any private schools in the country.

Therefore, I believe the United States could learn much from other countries, including those cited above.  Our curriculum needs to be changed to accommodate both academic and technical training.  A stronger emphasis needs to be placed on computer technology in both settings, as mechanics use computers nowadays almost as much as many office workers.  As an English teacher I personally love literature, but I believe that the ability to read and write technical materials is now much more important for the general work force, so those skills should be stressed above literary reading and writing.  I also personally believe that so-called tracking is perfectly legitimate as long as it is based on ability and achievement rather than any illegal discriminatory factor.

The only thing that I believe the United States does very well these days is teacher education and professional preparation.  Nearly every state is stepping up both credentialing requirements and post-credential training, and the national tests (SSAT, MSAT, PRAXIS, etc.) are demonstrating the high degree of subject knowledge that most teachers possess.  However, for the most part our compensation, working conditions and teacher support, especially for new teachers, need to be dramatically improved or the attrition rates will only increase.

What good does it do to produce great teachers if we can’t keep them in the profession?  And how will we produce well-educated students if we don’t have highly qualified, well-respected, and satisfactorily compensated professionals in every classroom?  If we are to adequately prepare our youth for the future challenges of a technologically-oriented global society, we must begin with ensuring that today’s teachers are totally able and committed to preparing them.




Buys, R. (2003).  Press release issued by Western Cape Provincial Government.



California Teaching Commission on Teacher Credentialing (2003).  Report to the Legislature, Teacher supply in California, 2002-2003.


Carroll, S. J., Krop, C., Arkes, J., Morrison, P. A. & Flanagan, A. (2005)  California’s K-12 public schools: How are they doing? Conducted by RAND Education for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.


Challa, S. (2003).  A fresh look at ‘teacher shortages’


Croasmun, J., Hampton, D. & Herrmann, S. (1997). Teacher attrition: Is time running out? Educational Leadership Program, School of Education, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


EFA Global Monitoring Report (2005). UNESCO



Elert, G. (1994). School privatization & choice: A sociopolitical analysis. E-World


Govender, P., and Farlam, P. (2004). Erasing the future: the tragedy of Africa's education. eAfrica, v. 2, August 2004.  The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)



Haberman, M. (2004). Where the public schools can find $2.6 billion more – every year.



Ingersoll, R. (2002). The teacher shortage: A case of wrong diagnosis and prescription. National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin, vol. 86, no. 631.


Keleher, T., Della Piana, L. & Fata, M. (1999). Creating crisis: How California teaching policies aggravate racial inequality in public schools. Applied Research Center


Lewin, K. M., Samuel, M., and Sayed, Y. (2003). Changing patterns of teacher education in South Africa – Policy, practice and prospects, Heinemann Press, South Africa.


Luekens, M. T., Lyter, D. M. & Fox, E. E. (2004). Teacher attrition and mobility: Results from the teacher follow-up survey, 2000-01. Prepared by of the Education Statistics Services Institute / American Institutes for Research under the direction of Kathryn Chandler, Project Officer for the National Center for Education Statistics.


Mazzoni, K. (1999). It’s time for California to step up and pay its teachers. ‘Opinion’ section of Loud and Clear.


Ocampo, M. L. (2004). A brief history of educational inequality from Apartheid to the present. http://www.stanford.edu/~jbaugh/saw/Lizet_Education_Inequity.html


Pandor, N. (2005).  Speech at the Canada-South Africa teacher development project conference, Kopanong Conference Centre, Benoni, South Africa, 26 May 2005. http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2005/05052713151001.htm


Press, H. (2000).  Doctoral thesis, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, of the University of Toronto.  http://www.cdli.ca/~hpress/teacher_demand/chap1.html


Proposition 13: Its Impact on California and Implications For State and Local Finances (1997). Published by the California Budget Project.


Richmond, V. (2005).  Teachers flee broken system.  http://www.straight.com/content.cfm?id=9630


Robinson, M. (2005).  Research paper presented to The IPC (INSET Providers’ Coalition), in conjunction with IDASA (Institute for Democracy in South Africa), South Africa. http://curriculum.wcape.school.za/index/n/v/795


Rosnick, D. (2003) Child’s play? The Bush administration’s misuse of data. Center for Economic and Policy Research.


Unknown (2001).  Framework for Inducting, Retaining, and Supporting Teachers http://www.nsba.org/site/page_REN4.asp?TRACKID=&DID=491&CID=428


Unknown (1996).  Soweto and its aftermath.


Unknown (2004).  Scottish teachers to work in South Africa;  National Union of Teachers Bulletin, 19 Feb 2004 ed., UK, http://www.teachers.org.uk/showwirearchive.php?id=2031108


Unknown (2004).  Erasing the Future: The Tragedy of Africa's Education.  eAfrica v. 2, August 2004, The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). http://www.saiia.org.za/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=391


www.nationmaster.com/cat/Education (statistics)


Weaver Dunne, D. (2001) Bush and Democratic coalition unveil education reform plans. Education World


Additional Information


Becker, J. (2002) Young teachers leaving the profession. Des Moines Register


Gledhill, L. (2005). Governor endorses measures: Proposals for budget, teachers pay policy one step closer to ballot. San Francisco Chronicle

[1][2] Figure 1 shows $13.8 billion in appropriations for 1999, but total K-12 expenditures that year amounted to $408.7 billion in constant 2000-01 dollars.  The value for total expenditures was taken from the Statistical Abstract of the United States 2002.

Make a Free Website with Yola.