It is perhaps the most powerful quotation associated with school reform in recent times: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” That sounds right and the global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company has the knack of putting into easy sound-bites these kinds of wisdoms about education. But what does that mean for South Africa? Quite simply, we are in trouble.Unlike the top performing school systems in the world, the most talented students in our country do not choose teaching as a career. For good reason. The image of the profession, though exaggerated, is one of sulking, lazy, striking, lethargic teachers who may or may not show up for school let alone appear in the classroom for teaching. Image and status matter to young people and graduates looking for a profession that reflects their own ideals and aspirations as new career entrants drift easily towards law, accounting, medicine and architecture. Not teaching. After all, they sat in schools ...

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