Teaching: An indispensable profession, even in the face of AI’s education advancements

As South Africa grapples with a growing teacher shortage and the ever-increasing threat of artificial intelligence (AI) in education, STADIO School of Education reiterates the enduring significance of teaching as more than just a career but a vital element in a child’s educational journey.

Even before the advent of AI, South Africa’s teaching deficit made for sorry reading. Only about 15,000 new teachers graduate in the country each year, far below the 25,000 needed to fill essential positions. This looming crisis already threatens the quality of education, but it is further exacerbated by the fact that more than half of current teachers will retire by 2030. If we don’t attract and nurture the next generation of educators now, South Africa risks having teacher-less classrooms in the next few years.

In an era where automation and AI are rendering many professions obsolete, the role of teachers remains irreplaceable.

Dr. Leanne Browning, Head of STADIO School of Education, emphasises, “Teaching is not just a career; it’s a calling. Teachers are the architects of our future, imparting knowledge, nurturing creativity, and providing the emotional support that technology can never replicate. The shortage of teachers in South Africa is a constant challenge, but it also presents an opportunity for those students who are beckoned to this noble profession to make a profound impact.”

Keen to dispel this misconstrued belief, Dr. Browning goes also adds that, whilst AI has the potential to revolutionise education, it will never completely eradicate the need for human educators.

Just as we turn to doctors despite accessing medical information online, students require the physical guidance and personal touch that only teachers can provide.

AI does have its plusses though, offering the potential to enhance education by making it more efficient and reducing teachers’ workloads. This essentially frees up teachers to focus on what truly matters – inspiring and nurturing young minds.

In the South African landscape, AI can be used to help students with different learning styles and disabilities to access the curriculum and participate in the classroom.

It has also been found that AI has the potential of decreasing the time it takes to prepare lessons by 80%, giving teachers more of an opportunity to assist students with learning barriers and to deliver better lessons.

However, AI continues to fall short of humans across various fields, particularly in intricate tasks demanding a combination of technical expertise and socio-emotional aptitude.

Indeed, the consensus among many experts is that, in the immediate future, AI will predominantly augment human capabilities rather than supplant them.

Recognising the pivotal role of STADIO alumni

 STADIO School of Education is at the forefront of preparing future educators to meet these growing challenges head-on. During this crucial Teachers’ Month in October, we reflect on the significance of this career path, not only due to the dire need for quality teachers but also as a celebration of the vital role they play in shaping our future. Florance Vermeulen, a STADIO alumni, showcases the high standard of educators produced by their programs. His innovative teaching approach has gained recognition, making him an ideal representation of the teaching profession.

Vermeulen’s journey began with STADIO, where he pursued an Advance Diploma in Professional Acting for Camera, followed by a BCom Degree in Management Marketing and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) through STADIO’s innovative distance learning model.

What sets him apart is his innovative approach to teaching. He has gained a substantial social media following by incorporating engaging dance routines into his lessons, a method he calls “business studies with a beat.” His commitment to bridging the gap between content-rich subjects and barriers to learning has made him a shining inspiration to his students and is a great reminder that there is no substitute for the dedication, creativity, and heart of a great teacher.

Reflecting on his achievement, Vermeulen said, “I am honoured that my passion for teaching and learning, and my role in my students’ lives, has been recognised. I absolutely love my job. Teachers have the power to inspire and instil values, dreams, and aspirations in their learners, fostering holistic and responsible individuals who contribute positively to their communities.”

There has never been a better time for aspiring educators to answer their call to teaching.

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