THREE educators will this week be the first to graduate from a Masters programme in education that was designed, according to one of its founders, for teachers who are passionate about their teaching and who want to stay in teaching.
Jacqui Clark, Bonane Motebang and Heidi Tungcheun are the pioneering graduates from the Masters in Education (Teaching) programme, started in 2000. All three also managed to score more than 70% for the dissertation stage of the course.
Associate Professor Chris Breen and colleagues Nigel Bakker, Jean Baxen, Jan Esterhuyse and Associate Professor Rob Sieborger in the Department of Education conceived the programme in the mid-1990s, a tumultuous time for the profession with teachers being retrenched, redeployed and generally demotivated.
"We wanted to dispel the bad press that teachers were getting both locally and nationally at the time and the trend to focus on Masters programmes which were geared towards giving teachers a means to leave the profession," notes Breen. "We believed that there was still a large number of enthusiastic and dedicated teachers in education who would welcome the opportunity to study with other positive educators."
And while the new stream has become the most popular at UCT, attracting about a third of the annual MEd intake, it was an uphill struggle securing approval for it. Persistence paid of, however, and the course went onto the UCT academic calendar in 1999.
With eight MEd streams on offer, the Teaching programme has become an annual hit. In 2000, it registered 21 out of the Department of Education's 67 Masters students, 13 of 41 in 2001 and 19 out of 55 this year. What has been particularly encouraging has been the fact that teachers from a range of sites and subjects have been attracted to the course.
The subject areas range from mathematics and languages to fine art and jewellery design, and lecturers from universities and technikons as well as fieldworkers from NGO's have registered for the programme.
The programme aims to move from practice to theory, he explains. "We want to capture and use teachers' life experiences. We want their experiences to inform what we do in the classroom. The rich diversity of the classes each year ensures that the group buzzes."
Teachers have given the course a definite thumbs-up, as attested by the steady enrolments and comments made in a questionnaire Breen presented to the class: "Teaching is very personal," said one teacher. "At long last, there is a module that focuses on and acknowledges this."