The strength of any education system largely depends on the quality of the teachers. In-service education and training thus focuses on the need for teachers to adjust effectively to rapid changes in the education system. It also helps the process of improving the quality of teachers' content knowledge and methods of instruction in the classroom. According to Bagwandeen and Louw (1993) the teacher is supposed to be the main influence in the classroom and for that matter cannot afford to lag behind continuous professional development.
Walters (1994), claims that the origin of in-service training is rooted in the assumption that a trained teacher is not a finished product. For that matter, in-service training is intended to support and assist the professional development of teachers. It is also an opportunity given to serving teachers to expand their knowledge and improve teaching skills.
The importance of continuous development is emphasised by Bagwandeen and Louw (1993). These authors point out that teachers are under severe threat to improve their expertise, knowledge and skills through in-service education and training. Again they believe that, indeed, for progress in education to be of any value, teachers as professionals must participate in their own intellectual growth.
In-service education and training in mathematics education is aimed at developing mathematics teachers so as to improve their teaching. It also contributes to the teacher's content knowledge, right attitude and techniques of teaching. The training programmes are sometimes used as a platform for teachers to understand the policies,
principles and procedures of the teaching profession. Inset therefore has a key role in developing the skills and capabilities of teachers
In the new South Africa, one often hears the words transformation, change, reform, development and growth. Inset is a professional development programme that is also about transformation, change and reform in the education system. In most cases inset programmes are organized in the form of workshops. These workshops are supposed to develop teachers so as to improve on their classroom practices.
Changes in classroom practices may be attributed to many factors. Among them are the introduction of technology in education, changes in curriculum, reforms in instructional methods and new assessment practices and techniques. Technology forms a greater part of teaching so it is important that teachers are trained to use it. For example the use of scientific calculators, overhead projectors and computers in a mathematics classroom will improve teaching and learning.
Changes in the curriculum, as a result of reforms in the education system, need to be communicated to the teachers. This is one of the reasons that teachers need to be trained to keep abreast with the changes. Assessment, for example is an integral part of teaching and learning, therefore it is necessary that teachers are made aware of the current assessment practices and techniques.
The NCTM 1994 Yearbook states that the professional development of teachers is a highly complex issue that has the potential to transform the entire field of education. It continues to indicate that professional development takes many forms, but true professional development, in the sense of resulting in meaningful and long lasting qualitative change in teachers' thinking and approaches to education, is an autonomous activity chosen by a teacher in search of better ways of teaching and learning mathematics.
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