The establishment of a pioneering teacher education and research school that bridges the divide between theory and practice in teacher education is being marked as one of the most exciting developments in South Africa’s teacher education landscape and exemplifies the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) aim of elevating the institution to global excellence and stature.
The new facilities at the Funda UJabule (isiZulu, meaning “learn and be joyful”) School at the University’s Soweto Campus, one of UJ’s flagship initiatives, will officially be opened at the University’s Soweto Campus on Thursday, 20 August 2015. The hour-long event is scheduled to start at 11am.
Says Prof Sarah Gravett, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, UJ: “The Funda UJabule School, a teacher education and research facility for students who study towards becoming primary school teachers, is the first of its kind in South Africa and is set to become a best-practice school and a model for future teaching schools in the country. The School is an ordinary public school, but also a practice site for student teacher development in the foundation phase and intermediate phase of schooling. The School is also a “social laboratory” enabling research in childhood education.”
The Funda UJabule School opened its doors in 2010, with two grade R classes offering education in either English and isiZulu, or English and Sesotho. It is rapidly growing into a full-fledged primary school. Research conducted in the school include projects on mathematics competence and mathematical concept development, mathematical learning difficulties, science concept development and remediation of reading difficulties
Prof Gravett points out that it is hugely important to ensure that we have excellent primary school teachers, because the foundations of learning are laid during the early years of schooling. “Through student teachers sustained involvement in the teaching school, they learn how children learn and develop over a few years, they observe the national school curriculum and school life in action. All this contributes to preparing them well for the demands of the teaching profession”.
The staff at Funda UJabule, with the guidance of UJ lecturers, become adjunct teacher educators to the UJ students. Thus, students, the School’s staff, and the lecturers collaborate in this integrated project of teacher education,” says Prof Gravett.
Prof Gravett led a Department of Higher Education and Training commissioned research project on establishing teaching schools at all teacher education institutions in South Africa. The report is currently under consideration. “Our experience with establishing the Funda UJabule School has been invaluable for this research” says Prof Gravett. “We have learned firsthand about the challenges, but also the great potential that teaching schools have for strengthening teacher education in South Africa.
Gravett concludes “Being involved in establishing the Funda Ujabule School and working closely with very committed colleagues on our Soweto campus has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I have learned a lot, together with my colleagues, and it has been a joy!”