When it started out in 2014, Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) was a UK aid funded programme focused on improving pre-service teacher training in Ghana. Over the next six years, however, the programme exceeded expectations ‒ achieving wide-reaching, structural reforms in how teacher education is approached and delivered. Although the programme itself came to an end in 2020, the work still goes on in a new guise.
Today T-TEL1 is a registered Ghanaian not-for-profit organisation that continues to drive improvements in the country’s education system. Led by local educational experts, it offers high quality technical advice, project management, research and support services. The team is building successfully on the vision and relationships formed over many years with key officials, education institutions and the communities they serve.
- T-TEL received consistently positive feedback and seven consecutive A ratings from the UK government between 2013-19.
- The programme has shown how technical assistance can support national-scale reforms and implementation across an entire education system.
- T-TEL has made a successful transition from a bilateral aid programme to a self-sustaining not-for-profit entity supported with global public investment.
A new philosophy
The T-TEL programme began with a focus on raising the standards of pre- and in-service teacher training and institutional change in colleges of education. That evolved into the Ministry of Education wanting to develop a new teacher training curriculum fit for the 21st century – one that would ultimately give children the skills to think critically, solve problems and collaborate in groups.
The old teaching diploma was too theoretical, focusing mainly on preparing children to pass exams using rote learning and chalk-and-talk methods. It also failed to differentiate between children’s needs at primary and secondary education levels, and it lacked professional prestige compared with university degrees, leading to high drop-out rates.
The T-TEL team began work on a new teacher education curriculum framework that would provide trainee teachers with more practical, hands-on teaching experience in classrooms from the start of training courses and raise the standard of quality assurance and assessment in colleges of education.
It became apparent, however, that government officials were prepared to go much further than tweaking the curriculum and methods of teacher education. They saw an opportunity for ambitious structural reform throughout the teacher education system, which could achieve lasting change.
This aligned with Cambridge Education’s analysis of the limitations of previous education improvement programmes. Earlier efforts had failed to tackle the underlying systemic problems needed to produce enduring changes in individuals’ behaviour, institutional capacity, and the enabling policy environment.
One of the keys to success in Ghana has been the ability of the T-TEL team to build consensus around a new vision for teacher education. They did this through a national and regional consultation, known as ‘The Big Conversation’. Key stakeholders from across the political spectrum, colleges of education, universities and schools, teaching unions, the media and civil society all had an opportunity to have their say, which caught the ear and attention of the Minister of Education.
Through formal and informal discussions, it was possible to develop a new philosophy of teacher education, identify necessary policy reforms and agree what this would mean for children and the teaching workforce. T-TEL was able to win the support of the individuals working in the education service, the organisations and institutions they worked for, and the policy makers who were responsible for allocating resources and overseeing the legal framework. This led to the production of Ghana's first National Teaching Standards.
Teacher education in Ghana has made huge strides forward. The quality of tutoring in the core subjects of mathematics, English and science at colleges of education is unrecognisable and the depth of classroom experience has boosted teacher confidence. Students can also specialise in early childhood, primary or junior secondary teaching from the start of the course.
A suite of complementary education reforms has been implemented, such as the licensing of teachers; a revised basic education curriculum for children; monitoring of teacher performance; and a promotion structure to reward quality, performance and innovation, rather than years in service. The ministry has also upgraded the diploma into a four-year Bachelor of Education degree to raise its status among those considering a career in teaching.
A Ghanaian solution
One of the biggest challenges and successes has been setting up T-TEL as a Ghanaian not-for-profit organisation to sustain and extend the educational reforms initiated by the programme.
The final year of the programme under Cambridge Education management included a focus on T-TEL's transition to a self-sustaining not-for-profit entity. This was achieved in discussion with the Mastercard Foundation, Ghana’s Ministry of Education, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and other potential partners seeking high quality, nationally-led, technical assistance and project management services. This led T-TEL to form a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation on a multi-year programme to strengthen senior high school education in Ghana.
Today’s T-TEL has moved beyond conventional reliance on bilateral overseas development assistance and a conventional project lifespan — to a global public investment model driven by local leadership and designed to drive national reforms deep into the 21st century.
1 T-TEL now stands for Transforming Teaching, Education & Learning