by Claire Miller
South Africa has gone through several changes in the last few years as the country transitioned to a democratic system of government.
But teacher quality and socioeconomic issues continue to affect its students’ academic achievement – something that Nazeem Edwards hopes will shift in the future.
“There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done to get students up to standard,” said Edwards, professor of physics and chemistry education at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, who was the guest speaker at the College of Education’s April 6 Research Wednesdays.
Edwards cited the 2003 Trends in International Math and Science (TIMS) study, which tested 8,000 eighth graders in 50 participating countries on their math and science knowledge. South Africa’s student population performed poorly in both subjects, and the schools in more affluent areas tended to perform higher than those in poorer areas of the country. This has been an issue for South Africa for decades, with the divide between public and private schools stretching back to the 1800s, he said.
“There’s a clear achievement gap at this level,” he explained. “And that poverty reflects in the achievement of our students in some of the provinces in South Africa.”
To remedy the growing achievement gap, Edwards argues that improved teacher education programs can prepare teachers to tackle the academic issues in their classrooms.
“I believe that teachers can act as agents of transformation,” he said. “From a teacher education perspective, there’s a lot we need to do to prepare our teachers adequately so that they in turn can address the problems within the classroom.”
The Research Wednesdays Speaker Series is designed to fulfill three goals: to provide a platform for explorations of new ways of conducting and disseminating educational research, to discuss new methods of mentoring doctoral students in an effort to enhance their development as researchers, and to fill a professional development need by providing access to cutting edge researchers at the state and national levels.
For more information about Edwards and the Research Wednesdays Speaker Series, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/coe_events.htm.