Incentives can motivate teachers to do better

2012-07-14 14:26

Teachers’ motivation, their coverage of the curriculum, whether or not they are in class and their mastery of the subject they teach are among the factors that influence learning outcomes.

The other important factor of outcomes is the calibre of principals. Schools with competent and motivated principals tend to do well despite the poverty profile of the community they serve.

How can we, as a society, tap into the motivation of teachers and make them feel more valued? First and foremost, teachers derive a sense of satisfaction from seeing their pupils succeed.

I remember back in 1994 when a semi-retired teacher pointed at a KwaZulu-Natal education MEC at the time and proudly told me he had taught him as a young man.

Committed teachers often do their utmost under difficult conditions.

They make sacrifices in the interest of their pupils in ways other professionals do not understand. The best way to tap into the motivation of teachers is to help them to be better at their chosen vocation.

Teachers also want to be recognised for their efforts.

Some form of recognition by the employer, fellow teachers, parents and pupils can boost their morale and make them feel valued.

Incentives can set them apart from the rest. But for this to happen, there has to be a realistic chance that each teacher who works hard will be recognised.

In other words, the reward must be within reach. There must be incentives within a school, at the circuit and district levels, as well
as at provincial and national levels.

Carefully structured incentives can stimulate positive competition and high levels of cooperation.

Rewards need not be money, they can take different forms.

Teachers respond to external stimuli in addition to the success of their pupils.

Money as an incentive should not be ruled out, though. A sum of money given to a school that shows consistent improvement can be a powerful way of getting the school and community to work together.

Education reforms require active participation of all stakeholders, and structured incentives can catalyse such involvement. There is no magic wand for fixing our education system and incentives alone will have a limited impact.

In-service teacher development and support will deliver sustainable improvements. Informed by a deep understanding of the challenges our system faces, we must find innovative ways to get the best out of our teachers.

»Mathe is a coordinator of the education chapter in the national development plan. He writes in his personal capacity


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