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Botswana’s Teacher Supply and Demand Matrix

Publishing Date : 13 July, 2015


The country has been sedated into euphoria that its teacher supply and demand has reached saturation point. This scenario and state of affairs runs counter to a global survey conducted by UNESCO Institute of Statistics titled, Teachers and Educational Quality: Monitoring Global Needs for 2015.

In the study UNESCO found out that there would be massive shortfalls in global demand for teachers in countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region by 2015 (UNESCO, 2006).

The study argues that the region will need to raise its current stock of teachers by 68% – from 2.4 to 4.0 million – in less than a decade (UNESCO, 2006). Taking this into consideration one cannot help but wonder whether the Ministry of Education and Skills Development’s insistence that the country has reached saturation in its teacher supply and demand especially in the non-sciences areas might just be ill-advised.

In interrogating whether the ministry’s stance is fundamentally flawed or informed by irrefutable empirical evidence there is need to begin to interrogate a set of policy variables associated with teacher deployment and working conditions.

One needs to bring under the microscope fundamentals of teacher demand and supply such as: curriculum relevance, instructional hours, class size, salary structure, teacher quality, system efficiency, availability and adequacy of specialized teachers, equity in distribution of specialized and quality teachers, level of qualification of current crop of teachers, resource allocation in schools, continuing professional development, etc.

Looking at these numerous variables can we as a country with conviction pronounce that we have reached saturation in teacher demand and supply? Quite honestly I find it exceptionally difficult to believe that we are anywhere near.

It is clear that as a country we are satisfied with mere quantity and that we do not aspire to improve quality in our education system. One wonders how then as a ministry and as a nation we seek to achieve the tenets of the very laudable 2015 Education and Training Strategic Sector Plan (ETSSP-2015).

In understanding the fundamentals of teacher demand and supply in Botswana there other variables that one also needs to interrogate such as the high rate of HIV/AIDS which has kept population growth low and stable. This has a direct impact on issues of access and teacher gender distribution in our schools and learner performance.

Currently Botswana has a pupil – teacher ratio that is slightly above the Sub Saharan Africa regional pupil – teacher ratio of 40:1. Botswana schools have a ratio of 45:1. This is higher than that of most countries in the SADC region (UNESCO, 2006).

Another key element in teacher supply and quality in Botswana is the ratio between younger and older teachers in the profession. There has been increased number of younger teachers in the profession which also impacts on teacher supply due to issues of social mobility by the younger teachers. From a different lens this could be viewed as a blessing as the inclination is that the younger generation of teachers is more qualified as opposed to their elder counterparts.

However, the flip side to this could be that the younger generation is generally without experience and lack the commitment and selflessness of the older generation. This would probably explain the declining performance of the education sector regardless significant investment and increase in number of teachers with slightly entry or above qualifications.
Other variables that determine teacher supply and quality of education are:

gender parity - distribution of male vs female teachers across regions and schools

In Sub-Saharan Africa gender parity at secondary school level is 4:1 (4 males to 1 female). This has direct impact on access, retention and progression from one level to another. For example, in Botswana the primary level generally has more female teachers and access into this level by the girl child is higher than at secondary level.

This is due to a plethora of issues one of them being how the girl child interacts with the female teacher as opposed to the male teacher. This brings into sharp focus issues of gender parity in education across the country’s regions.

Consequently, the complex matrix of teacher supply should be premised on quality and equity perspectives and not just on quantity. MoESD should reconsider its stance on this issue if the Education Strategy 2020 is to have any meaningful impact on the nation’s global competitiveness drive.

David Keagakwa is a member of BOSETU Research & Publications Committee



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