Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
The research was prompted by the assumption that the many problems in South African education (e.g. continuous curiculum changes, insufficient in-service training and support, classroom overcrowding, discipline problems,administrative paperwork, low teacher morale, high teacher attrition rate, low societal status of the teaching profession) must have an adverse effect on the career orientation of teacher training students. Our research was embedded in the theoretical framework of eco-systemic theory (Bronfenbrenner 1990), through which we indicated how the teacher is surrounded and influenced by various societal systems in four levels of proximity: the micro, meso, exo and macro levels. From these systems we established the conceptual framework, in which we discussed negative forces on the teacher as these are eminent in societal expectations about the teacher, the professional identity of the teacher and the retention rate in the teaching profession. The discussion ofthese negative forces and their impact affirmed our initial assumption and led to our research question: To what extent are teaching training students positively inclined towards a career in teaching? This question implied attention to a) the career motivation, and b) the moral values of the modern South African teaching training student. The empirical study was conceptualised as a pilot project. We involved the full number of final year teaching training students at one of the largest education faculties in South Africa, namely at the University of Pretoria. The students (n = 403) were asked to complete a questionnaire which focused inter alia on respondents' exposure to daily news, reasonsfor choosing the education career path, attitudes towards the teaching profession and medium to long term prospects in the profession. Moral inclinations were also probed, e.g. with items on religion, discipline, language of instruction, multicultural teaching and being a role model. The questionnaire findings were verified in a focus group interview with five purposively selected respondents in the questionnaire survey. Our findings nullified our initial assumptions. Not only were the students strongly committed to their chosen career, notwithstanding the questionable societal status of the teaching profession and the formidable teaching challenges (of which they were apparently keenly aware), but they also conveyed a strong message about moral values and the teacher's role in modelling those in and beyond the school. Our findings are prospective and certainly need verification on a broader scale. We are also planning a follow-up study with the same respondents, once they have completed two years of full time teaching. The findings could serve as impetus for education management measures to ensure that aspiring teachers' level of commitment is sustainable. One of these measures could be an online advice and counselling service for beginner teachers.
Keywords : teacher training; teacher training students; teacher morale; teaching career; teaching profession; teacher retention.