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Teacher Education 101: What Grade Should You Teach?

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Various age groups can offer unique teaching experiences. So what grade should you teach? You’ll want to determine this in the early stages of your teacher training.


The initial step to deciding which grade to teach is choosing the desired age group. You have five basic choices: Early Childhood Development, Foundation Phase, Intermediate Phase, Senior Phase and Further Education and Training Phase. Part of this decision is determined by what you enjoy doing as a teacher. 


If you like leading children in guided play, younger children are the most fun to work with. If you wish to educate kids on ways to develop their higher thinking abilities, primary school children are likely the group for you. And if you intend to teach serious educational content that prepares pupils for university and work, you’ll definitely prefer teaching high school-aged teenagers. Let’s look at the differences between each phase:

Early Childhood Development

ECD  is the period between birth and six years (preschool or crèche). In this phase, kids establish their fundamental cognitive abilities, behaviours and skills, preparing them for primary school as well as the rest of their lives. ECD teachers plan, prepare and execute activities to help pre-primary students learn a variety of skills, such as reading, writing, motor skills, and social interaction.

Foundation Phase

The Foundation Phase varies from Grade R to Grade 3. Foundational Phase teachers instruct Grade R to Grade 3 primary school pupils with an approved curriculum. They usually teach all the subjects in the curriculum to learners, while teachers in the higher phases teach only specific subjects that they specialise in. Also, they do a lot of admin work which includes getting ready for tests, marking said tests and creating reports. Sport and cultural functions are crucial in this phase, so Foundational Phase teachers may be required to assist as part of their job.

Intermediate and Senior Phase 

The Intermediate Phase covers Grade 4 to Grade 6, and the Senior Phase Grade 7 to Grade 9. Intermediate and Senior Phase teachers teach particular subjects within a recommended curriculum from Grades 4 to 9, plus they encourage learners’ social, mental, intellectual and physical growth.

Further Education and Training Phase

This phase ranges from Grade 10 to Grade 12. Teachers in the FET Phase teach one or more subjects within a prescribed curriculum per grade and guide students’ social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development.


You should also take into consideration the job market before selecting an age group. You might prefer teaching younger kids, but perhaps your city has a higher need for primary or high school teachers. Doing what you enjoy is essential in your career. But if you can be flexible to satisfy the demands of your chosen job market, that can be beneficial to your career in the long run.


What do you do if you’re unsure what grade you should teach? Many students aren’t sure what age of learner they would prefer to work with. Many students also aren’t sure what grades have the most teaching opportunities. If you’re studying to become a teacher and you’re unclear about which grade is ideal for you, you’ll have opportunities to figure it out as you do your teacher training.


Embury Institute for Higher Education is a fully accredited private higher education institution that specialises in teacher training.