Teachers are motivated by different factors to choose teaching, including mathematics education as a career. Before 1994 career guidance was not often used to inform career choice, especially in the rural schools of South Africa. During that period, a shortage of mathematics teachers was prevalent. After 2007, the government introduced the Funza Lushaka Bursary to recruit mathematics teachers.
The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors that influence teachers to choose mathematics education as a career. An explanatory sequential mixed methods approach was utilised to collect quantitative data through a survey and then qualitative data through interviews. To achieve this, this study was framed by a pragmatic paradigm.
Two theoretical lenses, the existence, relatedness and growth (ERG) theory and Factors Influencing Teaching Choice framework (FIT-CF), were blended to guide the study and to address the research question, “Why do teachers choose mathematics education as a career?” Convenient sampling was used to select participants (n=57) for the survey, from whom 9 participants were later interviewed using stratified random sampling. The sample was constituted by three cohorts of mathematics teachers who started teaching on or before 1994; after 1994 to 2007; and after 2007.
The conclusions drawn from the small sample were that teachers were mainly influenced by altruistic factors, followed by intrinsic factors. In addition, female teachers were influenced more by altruistic and intrinsic factors than their male counterparts. Variation in terms of the influence of altruistic, extrinsic and past events factors across the three cohorts was revealed. Generally, altruistic factors were the most influential factors across the three cohorts. Understanding the factors that influenced the teachers to choose mathematics education as a career could provide insight on how recruitment, retention and effectiveness of mathematics teachers could be optimised in South Africa.