Inequalities in Teacher Knowledge in South Africa

  • Nick TaylorEmail author
Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)


This chapter argues for the existence of three kinds of knowledge required for good teaching – disciplinary or content knowledge (CK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and curriculum knowledge; further, that the first of these, while it may be insufficient on its own to support excellent teaching, is the foundation on which all other types of knowledge needed for effective pedagogy rest. It then proceeds to describe the weak disciplinary knowledge resources held by the majority of South African teachers, and the inequitable distribution of this, the lifeblood of schooling, across the system. The inequitable distribution of disciplinary knowledge resources is one of the primary sources of the significantly weaker outcomes exhibited by South African children from poor homes. The chapter concludes that, without significantly improving teacher disciplinary knowledge, and pedagogic proficiency, all other efforts aimed at improving the quality of South African schooling are likely to come up against low ceiling effects. Furthermore, the responsibility for building these competencies must rest primarily with university-based teacher educators they face no small task, caught between matriculants with the lowest literacy and maths skills of their cohort, on one hand, and schools unable to provide adequate teaching practice, on the other. However, pre-service teacher education does seem to provide the optimal point at which to break not only South Africa’s vicious cycle of general school mediocrity, but also to begin to mitigate the massive inequality gap which plagues the country.


Initial teacher education Continuing professional development Disciplinary knowledge Pedagogical content knowledge Mathematics Literacy. 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.JET Education ServicesParktown, JohannesburgSouth Africa

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