Educator - Primary School

Primary school educators play a vital role in the development of young people. What children learn and experience during their early years can shape their views of themselves and the world and can determine their later success or failure in school, work, and can affect their personal lives.

Primary school educators introduce children to mathematics, language, science, and social studies. They use games, music, artwork, books, computers and other tools to teach basic skills. Educators at primary level generally teach all subjects and are generalist rather than specialist educators, as the primary curriculum is an integrated curriculum.

The work of primary school educators is challenging because each learner is different and often a learner will require individual support and encouragement. By the same token educators are required to enforce discipline in the classroom in order to create an environment conducive to learning. They should also be able to respond to evidence of child abuse and neglect and be able to cope with emergencies.

An educator’s day does not end when the final bell rings and a good deal of time out of school hours is spent preparing lessons as well as keeping up with new developments in specific subjects or in education as a whole. Primary school educators are required to do a fair amount of administrative work such as setting examination papers, marking answer sheets, marking homework, completion of registers and the drawing up of schedules and writing of reports.

They discuss their learners’ progress and concerns with parents at parent / educator interviews. They are also expected to plan and organise extracurricular activities such as sporting events, cultural activities, tours, camps and outings to places of interest.

The work can be very rewarding and educators are providing a valuable service to the community, which can be demanding and pressurised at times but equally rewarding at other times. It is possible for primary school educators to branch into more specialised areas such as remedial teaching, etc.

Personal Requirements

  • keen interest in children
  • humour and compassion
  • mature, balanced and sober view of life
  • tolerance, tact, sympathy and patience
  • set a good example for others to follow
  • strong personality and emotional stability
  • good health and stamina
  • able to speak and write well

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Choose subjects you enjoy and would like to teach one day

Complete a matric (National Senior Certificate) meeting the requirements for a degree or diploma course. Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree:?at a university, a student can first complete a bachelor degree of 3 or 4 years, depending on the course concerned, followed by a one year PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). The bachelor degree should preferably include at least a year of study in a language, as well as subjects that lead to a balanced understanding of learning areas that are covered in primary school. Every institution will have its own subject requirements to qualify for acceptance. It is advisable to contact the institution at which you wish to study before making a final choice of subjects.

A second means of obtaining a teaching degree is via the Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree, which is offered by a number of universities and most universities of technology. The Bachelor of Education is a four-year degree intended for prospective teachers and those wishing to enter other educationally-related fields. In each year of the curriculum, academic and professional studies are integrated with school-based practical teaching experience. Students taking the BEd may choose one of the following school-phase endorsements (each having a particular combination of core and phase-specific modules):

  • Foundation phase (Grades R-3) and Early Childhood Development (ECD)
  • Foundation phase (grades R-3)
  • Intermediate & Senior phases (Grades 4-6 & 7-9)
Qualifications in Education may be obtained at all universities.

Postgraduate qualifications, such as Advanced Certificates, are offered by UNISA, NMMU, UJ, US, UCT, RU, UKZN, NWU, UP, UFH, UV, UZ, WSU, Wits.

A teaching qualification provides an excellent foundation for entry into other career paths outside of the education industry.

Diploma:?diploma courses in teaching provide a practical and focused teaching qualification targeted at specific levels of education i.e. foundation phase (grades R-3), intermediate and senior phases. The teaching diploma is offered by a number of universities and universities of technology, such as CPUT, DUT, TUT. A diploma can be upgraded to a degree at a later stage.


  • government schools
  • provincial schools
  • private schools

Further Information

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa
Tel: (012) 324-1365

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work as a primary school teacher’s assistant or do voluntary work at a children’s home
  • try to obtain a position as a Sunday School teacher, camp leader or leader of a youth group
  • arrange to speak to primary school teachers about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions


Related Occupations

St Mary's Primary (Zimbabwe)

A day in the life of a primary school teacher (Australia)


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