Nelson Mandela University: Mandela University’s new part-time PGCE programmes aimed at boosting teacher capacity

Nelson Mandela University launched its part-time offering of its Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programmes this week – a move that has been welcomed as boding well with continuing efforts to boost teaching capacity.

The two-year PGCE part-time programmes will be offered from 2023 on the University’s South Campus, with lectures taking place in the late afternoons from Monday to Thursday.

With the demand for new teachers anticipated to increase until at least the year 2030, as current teachers reach retirement age and there is an increased demand for teachers due to population growth, this new offering bodes well with efforts to boost teaching capacity in schools.

The theme for the launch event was “Futures of Education”, with various representatives of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation; the Department of Basic Education; the South African Council of Educators and partner schools among the invited guests.

Distinguished Professor of Education from Stellenbosch University, Professor Jonathan Jansen, delivered the keynote address, highlighting some of the challenges within the South African education system.

“The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. So, if [Mandela University messes up] on this programme, it will particularly affect the pupils of the Eastern Cape, which is already riddled with challenges. Things may be great in your teacher education, but outside of campus, there is a lot that is wrong,” said Prof Jansen.

“So, why is South Africa’s education quality so low – despite a larger gross domestic product (GDP) than some African countries with better systems – and the answer is the quality, or lack thereof, of teaching. So, we are hoping that the PGCE graduates will invest the time and energy necessary to turn things around.”

Speaking at the launch, Mandela University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa said that as the only university in the world to bear the name of Nelson Mandela, the institution understands the responsibility that comes with bearing this name, and its obligation to realise, through its deployment of the academic project, the principles and values of Madiba.

“We are acutely cognisant of our duty to continuously seek out and create ways to make demonstrable his visionary wisdom. It is thus is a very proud moment for us today at Nelson Mandela University to be launching the Postgraduate Certificate in Education,” said Prof Muthwa.

“We see this as another contribution to fulfilling Mandela’s ideals for a more socially just world. In so doing, the legacy of Mandela is nurtured and carried forward, through each student who graduates from the programme and applies the learnings to the benefit of each learner who passes through their hands.

She said the University strives to be a socially embedded university in the service of society – a principle that undergirds the institution’s work.

“Central to this is hearing the voices and responding to the needs to stakeholders and reflecting this in our academic offerings. The design of the PGCE is a product of this approach,” she said.

“Our analysis of the daily reality of educators is that many have a thirst to further their studies yet need to continue working. We also discovered that people working in a range of other economic sectors feel drawn to teaching and wish to switch careers. Hence, we are introducing this PGCE, which is specifically designed for part-time delivery. It is also our hope that this format will allow us to broaden the accessibility of the programme.

“Firstly, a central aim of the PGCE is preparation for teaching in diverse contexts, and recognising the diversity of learners in classrooms. The methodology to achieve this is through applying humanising pedagogies. Respect for diversity is one of the six values of the University, which we work to actively inculcate in the posture of staff and students. Embedding this within programmatic learning and teaching, such as within the PGCE, is thus a clear demonstration of ensuring our values are alive and continuously strived for.”

The PGCE is a capping qualification available to students once they have completed an approved bachelor’s degree with two school teaching subjects up to NQF level 7, and has a particular focus on classroom practice and how to teach specific subjects.

The main reason for the Faculty of Education introducing the PGCE programmes on a part-time basis is that many potential education students are currently working and need to continue working while they study, as funding for postgraduate studies is not readily available. The introduction of the PGCE part-time therefore also allows the Faculty to broaden the accessibility of the programme.

The PGCE is aimed at those graduates who have completed a degree which meets the relevant admissions requirements (see the Nelson Mandela University website for details), are interested in pursuing teaching as a career, are currently working and would like to change their career path or those who feel that a teaching qualification would enhance the skills required for their current or future work.

It would also provide an opportunity for existing teachers, who do not have a formal teaching qualification to obtain one.

“Offering a part-time PGCE supports the Education Faculty’s vision and mission “to cultivate passionate, engaged, knowledgeable, effective and compassionate teachers, researchers and leaders”. In doing so, we strive to both practice, and advocate for, the use of a humanising pedagogy in all areas of education,” said Dr Heloise Sathorar, who heads the Department of Secondary School Education within the Education Faculty.