Working Group on the Teaching Profession (WGTP)

Background

In many African countries, teachers' working conditions, status, professional development, and support are poor. These conditions are exacerbated by irregular pay, crowded classrooms, and lack of pedagogical support which undermine teachers' motivation and performance and inhibit the provision of quality basic education. The shortage of qualified teachers has been identified as a key barrier to achieving Education for All (EFA). Rapidly growing populations and restricted budgets leave scant resources for improving teachers' condition. Optimizing existing resources has thus become a foremost concern. The Working Group on the Teaching Profession strives for the better management of the teaching workforce and the development of an environment conducive to quality teaching and learning.

What is the Working Group on the Teaching Profession?

The Working Group on the Teaching Profession (WGTP) was created in 1989. It is composed of a steering group of permanent secretaries, regional coordinators, representatives of development agencies and other stakeholders interested in issues related to the management and professional support of practicing teachers. The WGTP meets periodically to review its activities and make decisions on future activities.

What are the working group's objectives? 

WGTP seeks to improve the quality of basic education in Africa by working with African ministries of education, teachers and education personnel, teachers' professional organizations, teacher training and research institutions, NGOs, and the private sector to create an enabling teacher education management and support system and an improved teaching and learning environment for all teachers and pupils. This environment can be achieved through supporting the professional development of the teaching force, reinforcing teacher support delivery mechanisms, and encouraging the development of new policies, strategies, and practices aimed at improving the conditions under which teachers serve.

What does the Working Group do?

Since 1993, WGTP has been engaged in a program called Teacher Management and Support (TMS), which aims to produce and implement country action plans to address key issues related to teacher management and professional support. Various meetings are convened with senior ministry of education officials to sensitize them to prevailing issues and problems affecting the teaching profession. Country working groups in ministries are mobilized to develop country action plans to respond to specific issues. WGTP has developed both reference and training materials to support the professional development of teachers and teacher management systems. 

In 2003, after eight years of operating separately, the anglophone and francophone sections merged into a single working group. Subsequently, WGTP set up a new Steering Committee and designated five regional coordinators to facilitate field support to and collaboration with African ministries of education and other local stakeholders. At national level, WGTP is represented by a focal point. 

Focus and priorities

EFA plans, education related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the African Union Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in education, decentralization policies, and HIV/AIDS have all presented WGTP with new challenges in Africa. 

With the demands of increased enrollment in both primary and secondary education the teacher shortage presents a big challenge for most education systems in Africa. To meet the need for additional teachers, the interrelationship of factors must be addressed. These relate to the size of the pool of suitable candidates for recruitment to the teaching profession, the inability of the current training models to supply sufficient teachers, insufficient initial and in-service training, and high teacher attrition due to poor working conditions and status. In the new context, the unified WGTP focuses its intervention on HIV/AIDS issues as an important component of teacher development. The aim is to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and also ensure that they receive the training to equip pupils with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to avoid infection.

This new context has also shifted WGTP's conceptual framework from Teacher Management and Support (TMS) to a broader Teacher Education Management and Support (TEMS) Program to cater for development and support to initial teacher training as well.

Strategy

WGTP uses a five-pronged strategy to meet its objectives:

  • Advocacy
    Advocacy will continue to be critical in mobilizing key actors and resources for WGTP. Advocacy is a tool that must be retained but adapted to address different issues and to influence varied target groups and stakeholders.
  • Research 
    WGTP will continue to prioritize research to give African educators an opportunity to lead investigations. Research into the quality of teacher education is important to produce knowledge and insights to inform future policy interventions. There is need, for example, for research into pedagogical practice issues. How can we sustain better classroom performance? How can research results influence teacher training curricula and practices?
  • Networking and Professional Exchange
    WGTP will work with African ministries of education and local organizations to encourage the creation of support networks for different categories of teachers and education personnel in Africa. Classroom teachers, educators, inspectors and pedagogical advisors, school principals/head teachers, and teaching service commissioners will be targeted for professional exchange.
  • Capacity building
    The main task of the TEMS program in this domain is to build capacity in different areas in response to management and professional training needs identified by ministries of education. The capacity-building program will be designed in a coherent, structured manner informed by countries' training policy needs. The TEMS process will also emphasize diversified local training and technical support, support regional cooperation in capacity building, and support resource materials development.
  • Access to information and knowledge
    Access to information and knowledge is a new area and one that cannot be separated from current efforts to improve teacher performance and education quality. The teaching profession stands to benefit from access to information and knowledge in several areas: including professional development through self-study, exchanges with colleagues on professional matters, access to databases and bibliographies, and references on a wide range of topics or subject areas.

Publications and documents

WGTP has published training modules and studies produced by teams of writers from countries participating in its activities. 
These include: 

  • Resource Materials for Multi-Grade Teaching - Better Schools Series, Commonwealth Secretariat 2005
  • TEMS News - Special issue to inaugurate the unified WGTP, September 2005
  • Towards Developing an Expertise in Teacher Management, 2001
  • Developing a Professional Teaching Service, 1999 
  • A Reference Guide for Teacher Managers, 1999
  • TMS Newsletters 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001
  • Management Policies Affecting Teaching Personnel in Francophone Countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, 1997
  • Management and Mobilization of Teaching Staff in Francophone Countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, 1996