7 Action steps from the 4th African Policymaker Forum to improve Teachers Trainings Delivery Approaches

This blog is part of the Africa Policymaker Forum (APF) blog series.

Photo: GPE/Kelley Lynch, Kenya, April 2017

Background

The Africa Policymaker Forum (APF) is a joint community of practice launched by the Education Commission (EC) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) to discuss delivery challenges and strategies for addressing them and improve education service delivery across Africa. These bi-monthly sessions are designed around country needs and the first forum took place in May 2021 with representatives from education ministries in Angola, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. They shared key challenges they were facing, including delivering education remotely, sacrificing longer-term priorities to focus on immediate needs, and prioritizing limited resources.

The second forum, in July 2021, included representatives from Rwanda and the participating countries exchanged on various delivery approaches needed to achieve their educational goals. The 3rd Forum, in September 2021, included representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo and enabled participants to share their experiences and perspectives on strengthening data management systems and their importance in making sensible policies. The 4th forum was recently held on 14th April 2022 and focused on research findings and recommendations from the KIX Observatory report on teacher training and support in Africa.

Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary of ADEA and Co-Chair of DeliverEd, a High-Level Advisory Group, welcomed participants and encouraged open knowledge sharing on different issues and initiatives related to teachers’ training and support in Africa. He was followed by Moses Ngware from the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), who presented the KIX Observatory report on Teachers' training and support, the latest emerging evidence, good practices from the research findings, and recommendations to improve teachers’ training and support.

Challenging experiences and lessons learned by participating African Countries

Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Education, H.E. Dr. Dzingai Mutumbuka, stressed that Africa has what it takes to effectively support teachers to remotely deliver education during and beyond COVID-19 time. He moderated workshop discussions with representatives from Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Madagascar who shared challenges encountered and lessons learned in teacher training delivery programs during the pandemic:

  • Nigeria representatives reported that children’s education partially continued during COVID-19 thanks to virtual schools and programs for children in remote areas or for children for whom normal school attendance is not possible. They also indicated that few teachers had the technical capacity to manage online learning systems. Therefore, teachers received rapid upskilling in the use of technologies to support remote learning.
  • Senegal and Ghana representatives reinforced the central role of teachers in remote student learning. No matter how good the resources, from online platforms to radio broadcasts, student learning is dependent on substantial teacher-student engagement. However, teachers face considerable challenges when working at a distance with students.
  • Madagascar and Sierra Leone shared capacity building initiatives of teachers through remote mentoring, coaching and support. Through the strategic and creative use of WhatsApp groups and remote coaching on Zoom and Google Meet, teachers undertake engaging Continuous Professional Development (CPD) activities, including sharing audio recordings and videos of their practices with supervisors for feedback.
  • In Nigeria and Kenya, teachers now use more varied strategies to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and enthusiasm for learning among students has improved. Videos exemplifying good practice have been produced and they can be accessed offline. Learning Management Systems such as Moodle and Canvas are also used to share and discuss teachers’ ideas and experiences with one another.
  • In Rwanda, it was indicated that the proportion of mathematics teachers meeting the benchmark standards rose from 22% in 2019 to 89% in 2021.

The challenges experienced by teachers have been grouped into six key areas:

  1. Teachers need clear strategies for establishing ongoing communication with students, particularly in low resource settings.
  2. Teachers struggle with their digital skills. Most African students are in schools where teachers lack the skills to integrate digital devices in instruction.
  3. Teachers find curating online and remote teaching resources burdensome, reducing time for interaction with students.
  4. Teachers need innovative and contextual strategies to build a strong 'virtual presence' with their students. Evidence from the KIX Report on Teachers training and support revealed that the natural lack of social interaction with learners can lead to disengagement and alienation and that establishing 'teacher presence' is an important component of remote schooling.
  5. Teachers have less real time information on student learning, comprehension and progress than in traditional settings, making adaptive teaching more demanding.
  6. Teachers need support to tackle increased challenges in safeguarding and supporting equitable outcomes. Home environments can exacerbate disadvantage, and greater use of online learning brings its own increased safeguarding risks

To address the above-mentioned challenges, all participating countries recognized the need to support schools and policymakers in using digital technologies creatively and critically. Beyond the crisis, teachers also need support with the pedagogical challenges of school re-opening, such as delivering compressed curricula or catch-up programs, and potentially dealing with cycles of transition in and out of remote learning contexts. Hence offering professional development in digital skills, online safety, subject-specific digital skills, and parental engagement is more urgent than before.

Action steps to improve delivery approaches of teachers' training

Below are the key recommendations and steps to reinforce African teachers’ capacity in remote delivery that emerged from the lessons learned by the participating countries:

  1. Conduct pre-intervention needs analysis for teachers. This should include remote teacher self-assessment, and 360-degree feedback from line managers, or live needs assessments at the beginning of online courses
  2. Develop effective central teacher resources to support broadcasts and for inclusion in distance learning solutions and virtual learning environments (VLE). This would ensure that teachers can access quality assured and curated resources in line with the local curriculum, which can be adapted to work in low-resource settings like rural zones.
  3. At the level of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programs, policymakers and education leaders should develop engaging and interactive content for remote teachers. This could be interactive activities on WhatsApp, Google Meet and Zoom, online modules and guided self-study assignments in essential topics including as digital skills, safeguarding, learner engagement strategies (across radio, TV and online resources), and learner progress and assessment.
  4. Provide ongoing remote support to exemplify good practice. This would include the provision of real-time assistance to clarify and resolve delivery and access to resources issues, including:
    • Distribution of printed materials
    • Mobile SD cards or tablets preloaded with teacher resources such as videos, audio recordings, and sample lessons for offline access
    • Sharing of audio and video exemplars through WhatsApp and Zoom sessions
    • SMS support
    • Social media groups (Hangouts, WhatsApp etc.) for sharing of resources
    • Specialised mobile apps for teachers, integrated with a virtual learning environment (VLE)
  5. Provide ongoing support for coaching, mentoring and develop communities of practice.
  6. Establish remote teaching standards and develop quick tips for parents and head-teachers.
  7. Track impact and engagement including tools to track use of distance learning materials, teacher feedback and satisfaction, and assessment of teacher skills pre- and post-CPD activity.

The last key session of the Forum was on the presentation of a competitive funding challenge for policymaker champion teams (those involved in policy, planning, M&E, or implementation) to use elements of delivery approaches to achieve improvements in foundational learning.

Next steps

With the rapid adoption of remote learning models, teachers play a critical role in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on learners; policymakers need to make the best of their skills now and when schools re-open. Based on the latest evidence, ADEA and the Education Commission can provide advisory services and expertise to support teachers in the critical areas needed for student learning continuity.

Overall, the 4th APF provided a space for African policymakers to dialogue and learn from one another. We look forward to the continued growth of this community of practice to exchange experiences and knowledge on evidence-based decision-making and delivery approaches to strengthen teachers’ capacity in Africa.

The next APF convening (5th ed.) in June will focus on learning assessment and practices to respond to the evidence on the need for best practices in supporting and monitoring learner progress. Thank you for your participation and we look forward to receiving your feedback on the tested solutions and strategies that were shared above. You can reach out to Christian Elongué ([email protected]) and Charry Lee ([email protected]) with any challenge encountered in the implementation of any of the action steps or delivery recommendations.