Experiences of the South African high school classroom : a case study of high school English classroom experiences of student-teachers of English at a University in KwaZulu-Natal.
Anyanwu, Munachiso Anselm.
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The purpose of this study was to understand student teachers’ experiences of the high school English classroom, and the impact, if any, of their experiences on their decision to become teachers, especially teachers of English. It is said that the quality of an education system is boosted by the quality of its teachers. Therefore, the purpose of my study is, furthermore to explore if student teachers’ perceived ability to function and perform as expected in tertiary studies is informed by their experiences of high school, and if their experiences of high school have anything to do with their decisions to become teachers. The respondents in this study were third year English Major students of the School of Education at a University in KwaZulu-Natal. With its emphasis on experiences, the study utilised a phenomenological framework. Underpinned by an interpretivist paradigm, the study used a qualitative case study method. Data were collected through questionnaires, individual semi-structured interviews and written narrative accounts. This study found that student teachers of English at a university had both negative and positive high school experiences, not just of schooling but of learning English. These experiences were subjective as it was predicated on each individual’s unique circumstance and context. Each context was found to be as unique to the individual as it is his/her experience. This study also found a disparity between student teachers’ experiences of urban schools and rural/township schools. While most urban schools enjoyed better facilities, quality teachers and teaching, township and rural schools were dilapidated and lacked quality, both in teaching and infrastructure. It also found that these experiences have impacted both positively and negatively on their current learning experiences at the university. The findings revealed that the experiences student teachers had had at high school often prompted them to become teachers. This study therefore concludes that high schools play a vital role in the future life of students, either in their academic life or in careers. It thus becomes imperative that high schools recognise their impact on students’ lives.