Improving the knowledge and skills of South Africa’s teachers is an important part of strengthening our education system. Research has shown that our teachers’ skill levels are poor, and teachers are required by law to participate in professional development practices, such as attending workshops and courses that keep them up to date with current practice.
However, it can be difficult for current teachers to access these continuing professional development courses at tertiary institutions, simply because many of them live and work in remote communities. To help address this need, STADIO Faculty of Education, a private higher learning institution, has taken its Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) courses off site, and into under-served areas.
STADIO Faculty of Education’s most popular CPTD courses are those related to early childhood development (ECD). Larry Mthimkhulu, CPTD Manager at STADIO Faculty of Education says, “ECD focuses on the very beginning stages of education. I believe the way a teacher handles a child’s formative years is crucial to their development and their educational journey as a whole – especially if they have a disability or learning difficulty. So, we try to emphasise the importance of what teachers are doing with the children in their care and empower them with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform this vital work.”
ECD has been identified as being key in helping minimise poverty and inequality in South Africa, because of the preparatory role it plays for formal schooling. Interactions between parent and child in the first few years of life are especially important for early language, cognitive, and socio-emotional development, but the 2019 South African Early Childhood Review states that many caregivers never engage in key activities likely to improve early learning outcomes, such as reading, telling stories, or playing with their children.
Furthermore, many crèches and nursery schools are started in rural areas simply because there is a great need, as parents are out at work, but the founders and teachers of these schools have little to no education or training in ECD.
The first of STADIO Faculty of Education’s popular ECD courses is An Introduction to Childhood Practices in the South African Context, (0-5 years), which Mthimkhulu says is ideal both for teachers or parents who want to acquire the knowledge necessary to carry out the duties of a professional ECD practitioner or caregiver.
Second, the Inclusive Education course helps teachers to recognise disabilities and learning challenges early on, such as hearing impairment, ADHD, or dyslexia, among others, so that they can work with parents to ensure their children are directed to the right specialists to support the child. “Identifying learning challenges early on makes the whole learning experience much better for the child,” says Mthimkhulu.
Finally, the Movement Play for Babies, Toddlers and Young Children course aims to help ECD teachers to create appropriate movement programmes for their schools. It is essentially the beginning of Physical Education and starts to develop children’s gross motor co-ordination.
Education experts agree that it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of ECD, which lays a solid foundation for cognitive and social development, and a successful basic education. Taking this knowledge out into the rural areas, where the need for skills development is great, is an essential building block for improving South Africa’s education system as a whole.
For more information on STADIO Faculty of Education’s CPTD courses, visit https://stadio.ac.za/faculty-education/school-education.