The role of African teachers

Reflections on the global and regional education commitments and how best to position African countries to develop meaningful partnerships that advance the achievement of identified development targets. 

Teacher Duria Balla looks over and corrects student's work, Sudan. CREDIT: GPE/ Kelley Lynch

This is the 13th blog post in a series of collaborations between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5 since 1994 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, a main reference framework for addressing teachers’ rights and responsibilities on a global scale.

The 2017 edition of World Teachers’ Day will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel under the theme “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”… What an appropriate theme!!

The vital role played by teachers

Teachers play a critical role in advancing quality education, and thus are a crucial ingredient to suitable and inclusive development.  As the world celebrates Teacher’s day, ADEA’s Inter-Country Quality Node on Teaching and Learning (ICQN-TL) reflects on the global and regional education commitments and how best to position African countries to develop meaningful partnerships and associations that enhance the achievement of identified development targets. 

The Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), particularly Target 4.c alludes to the need for “a substantial increase in the supply of qualified teachers, through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, specifically in least developed countries and small island developing states, by 2030”.

The Joint Assessment Training of Trainers workshop

In the context of the aforementioned target, there are individuals and associations that have a track record for developing education policies and practices aimed at empowering teachers with the requisite skills. One of them is the Association for Education Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) through its Inter-Country Quality Node on Teaching and Learning (ICQN-TL), supported by the ADEA”s Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support (WGEMPS).

ADEA’s ICQN-TL hosted and led by Rwanda, is currently conducting a range of activities aimed at empowering teachers with the competencies they need to improve learning outcomes in the ever changing and complex education sector conditions that are coupled with expensive global technological changes. 

The Joint Assessments Training of Trainers workshop from September 25th to 29th in Kigali is one of the recent strategic activities on training assessments carried out in the African continent.

The key objective of the workshop was to train assessment officials on continuous based assessment, psychometrics in assessment as well as competency based curriculum. As you can see, it fits well within the 2017 World Teachers’ Day theme.

The workshop has seen the convergence of 7 countries (Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and over 50 participants, including teachers’ trainers, assessment officials and civil society organizations. This training of trainers focuses on, directly and indirectly, elements of assessment that contribute to the empowerment of teachers in supporting the improvement of learning outcomes from the classroom level up.

The main objectives of ADEA’s ICQN-TL

While the ICQN-TL is a hub for all teaching and learning champion countries, with an active drive to improve teaching and learning systems in Africa, its overall objective is to support the Ministry of Education of Rwanda to take the lead in the development and implementation of policies and strategies in this area in Africa. To achieve this objective, ICQN-TL has the following objectives:

  • Address teacher quality by carrying out research and proposing solutions that support the empowerment of teachers.
  • Promote the integration of ICT into teaching and learning through supporting the ground work in champion countries.
  • Promote appropriate learner assessment approaches, such as the Learning Assessments Systems Evaluation Framework (LASEF) to ensure quality teaching.
  • Collect information on innovative educational experiences in Africa and working with a group of countries in the region to apply these to their national contexts.

How to attract, recruit and train the right teachers in Africa?

Presently the ICQN-TL is looking to contribute to the improvement of the teaching profession by conducting a comparative study on secondary school teacher motivation and incentive, funded by the MasterCard Foundation. This research exercise will target both female and male teachers in a selected group of public secondary schools in Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal, taking into account economic (urban/rural) and linguistic (French/English) considerations.

The study also targets teacher’s unions, teacher organizations, students, parents, civil society, the private sector and Ministries of Education. It is envisaged that the exercise will gather and synthesize information on how to attract, recruit and train the right people as teachers in Africa, their effective and efficient deployment and the types of monetary and non-monetary incentives, at individual and institutional levels, which can elevate their status in society. 

The study recognizes that the attrition rate is a recurring phenomenon in each of the target countries and has had grave consequences on student learning outcomes. It is expected that successful completion of this study will provide comprehensive and well triangulated findings on country specific teacher motivation factors as well as realistic recommendations and strategies to improve the teaching profession and learning outcomes through teacher motivation.

Remaining challenges 

Although tremendous effort has been made in empowering teachers to promote quality education, challenges remain towards the full achievement of this goal. As Africa embraces policies to transform itself, the continent still boasts scores of graduates with skills that are not required on the labor market; there are millions of graduates who have accumulated knowledge but can’t fix economic, social and technological challenges that the continent faces. Moreover, such graduates cannot get meaningful employment. 

Africa should honestly ask the questions: to what extent have teachers been empowered to fulfil their teaching obligation? How well are our learning assessment practices aligned to measure the competencies requested on the labor market? 

It is vital to ponder on whether this situation is a reflection of our outdated teaching and assessment systems, and what relevant teaching and learning practices we can adapt.

These questions should drive us to seek solutions to promote sustainable and equitable economic development. ADEA’s recognition of the truth in Nelson Mandela’s statement that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” supports the organization’s drive to promote high quality African education and training.  Lastly, the ICQN-TL honors the great contribution teachers have made to improve communities, and take this opportunity to wish every teacher a happy World Teachers’ Day.

Reminder: If you can read this blog, add a comment below to thank a teacher!