Posted on 20 February 2019
However, the education system is struggling to keep pace with the rate of progress. The government has therefore initiated a UK aid-sponsored change programme, managed by Cambridge Education, which will overhaul pre-service teacher training.
To maintain Ghana’s forward momentum, the Ministry of Education is looking to develop students with skills in critical analysis and critical thinking. The current education system is more focused on teaching children to pass exams rather than solving problems or working in groups.
Children sit quietly in rows, memorising facts handed down by the teacher and then they repeat them as well as they can on the exam paper. In the past, efforts to improve teaching standards with in-service workshops and training courses enjoyed short-term success, before teachers reverted to old habits.
Moreover, the wider support network for teachers did little to incentivise higher performance, while pre-service training perpetuated the existing system and propelled young teachers into the firing line with insufficient practical experience. Typically, student teachers only gained meaningful experience in a classroom in the third year of a three-year diploma, and then often received limited supervision.
Courses were the same for both primary and junior secondary education, despite the huge difference in aptitudes needed. In addition, students would often take leave of absence from teaching to start a new university degree, as the teaching diploma did not carry the same level of professional prestige.
The Government of Ghana has recognised teaching as the barrier to better learning outcomes, and also the potential solution for progress. The launch of Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) aims to give the next wave of teachers the right core and technical skills from the start of their careers, by improving the quality of teaching and learning in all 40 Colleges of Education (CoEs).
The project started in 2014 and is funded by UK aid as part of its Girls Participatory Approaches to Students Success (G-PASS) programme. This new wave of teachers will look at education in a different way, adopting more modern teaching techniques that put the child at the centre of the process.
T-TEL aims to improve the level of tutoring in CoEs across the core subjects of mathematics, English and science, and support better management of the colleges. The Cambridge Education team will help reform the pre-service curriculum, including more opportunities for students to teach in classrooms from the start of their training. We are also working with the ministry and regulatory bodies on policy reform, and introducing incentives to innovate and improve performance.
Students will have the opportunity to specialise as early childhood, primary or junior secondary teachers from the start of the course. Importantly, the ministry is also making plans to upgrade the diploma into a four-year Bachelor of Education degree, to raise its standing among those considering a career as a teacher.
While pre-service reform is typically more testing than in-service realignment, the high level of political will and political backing is providing the right environment for deep systemic change that will embed performance management as business as usual. The challenge is greater, but so too are the rewards.
The intended outcome of the programme is the development of teachers who can demonstrate interactive, student-focused instructional methods. Recent results show that these methods have increased significantly from 0.8% at baseline (2014) to 17.9% at midline (2016).
Importantly, teacher training will be supported by a sweep of other education reforms such as the licensing of teachers, a revised basic education curriculum for children, teacher observations to monitor performance and then a promotion structure that’s linked to that performance (rather than simply years in service). The government is further demonstrating its commitment to educational reform by making secondary education free for all students.
Find out more on T-TEL's website.
Posted on 03 December 2018
This is particularly important for the young nation of South Sudan, which has faced many years of conflict, turning millions of its people into refugees and internally displaced persons.
The world’s newest independent state faces widespread challenges to provide basic services to a population where the majority live in poverty. The economy remains extremely fragile, with high dependence on shrinking oil production (98% of government revenue). The renewal of conflict only two and half years after independence in 2011 only worsened the context for social and economic development. Livelihoods have been disrupted, with families and livestock displaced. As a result, South Sudan has seen an increasing dependency on donor support.
The conflict has disrupted normal service provision in most of the country. Exacerbated by currency depreciation, civil service salaries have reached impossibly low levels.
The education sector is characterised by massive under resourcing in all areas - financial, human and physical. The system has lost a significantly large number of able teachers. Regions closest to the active fighting have suffered the most, as both teachers and pupils relocate to relatively safer areas. Government teachers are paid low salaries and irregularly paid, if at all. The low remuneration and conflict have seen very high numbers of teachers leaving the profession. For those teachers who have remained on the job, absenteeism is widespread.
On top of this, the capacity for teacher administration and management at Central Ministry level is weak, due to lack of an information system that could provide reliable data on the total number of teachers, how they are distributed around the country, and their qualifications. This lack of data makes it impossible to plan and budget effectively.
In April 2017, the EU and South Sudan government launched the IMPACT project, with Cambridge Education's parent company, Mott MacDonald, contracted as project manager. IMPACT is part of the wider EU Emergency Trust Fund, which aims to bring stability in African countries by addressing the root causes of irregular migration and displacement.
IMPACT pays incentives equivalent to $40, on a quarterly basis, to 30,000 primary school teachers. This intervention aims to prevent the exodus of qualified teachers nationwide and promote teacher attendance. Each teacher will receive their incentive a total of nine times. Schools and teachers must account for all the money received, by signing pay-sheets and providing proof that they are attending school regularly and teaching the set number of hours. Schools and teachers that fail to demonstrate this will not be eligible to receive subsequent payments.
In addition, the project designed and has scaled up a Human Resources and Information System (HRIS) for education and teacher management which helps the government have a clearer picture of the situation across the country. Officials gain information about how many teachers are actively teaching and where, the type of school they are teaching in, and their academic qualifications.
Despite moves towards peace, high insecurity remains a problem in many parts of the country. The conflict continues to displace communities, including teachers and children, and renders some areas (almost) inaccessible to project staff. When travelling outside of Juba, staff travel by air to avoid using the more dangerous roads.
Another big challenge is that the banking system in South Sudan is largely inadequate. Banks closed branches in more remote locations meaning teachers had to walk very long distances to claim payments, placing themselves at risk of being robbed or assaulted. To make sure that teachers could receive their salaries without risk to their personal safety, IMPACT contracted a local bank to deliver cash directly to schools.
In its first year of implementation, the HRIS has been implemented nationwide and populated with data from over 2,900 primary and secondary schools across all the states of South Sudan. The database now offers an enormous central reservoir of biometric data for more than 32,000 teachers, including fingerprints and ID photographs, as well as details of qualification certificates and job appointment letters. The project is in the process of producing ID smart cards for those teachers receiving incentives.
The HRIS has also provided the information needed to set up a strict monitoring and evaluation system for the incentives payments with IMPACT having now made three rounds of payment with relatively few incidents.
IMPACT has benefited from key lessons Cambridge Education has learned through the implementation of the UK aid-funded Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) programme.
GESS makes direct cash transfers to more than 250,000 girls across the country, and by using similar systems for moving money, in addition to building capacity at the school and local government level, IMPACT could get teacher payments up and running from the first month. The network of State Anchors – local ‘ambassadors’ who provide information to communities and encourage participation – were already in place and contracted to speed the advance of IMPACT.
With the future sustainability of the programme in mind, IMPACT has trained well over 100 government staff to date, with more earmarked to receive training. As new teachers join, and others retire or die, the HRIS system must be updated. Capacity of government staff at the national and local level is being built so they can independently manage and maintain the HRIS system in future. They are taught to identify ‘ghost teachers’ or other attempts to corrupt the system and how to put proper checks and balances to counter this.
IMPACT pays incentives to eligible teachers across South Sudan, including those in schools in opposition-held areas. Although just a small act, IMPACT is playing its part to try to foster an attitude of inclusivity, something which is crucial for the future stability of this young nation.
Posted on 30 November 2018
Tanzania’s recent progress in education:
In 2017, under the Education Programme for Results project, Cambridge Education in partnership with DFID, the World Bank, and SIDA launched the National Inclusive Education Strategy. The strategy was aimed at addressing the challenges faced by marginalised groups and identifying the approaches taken to remove these barriers so that all can access education and gain vital skills that they will need to engage in society.
It was clear when devising this strategy that some of the people within the Ministry’s Special Education Unit (SEU) lacked the right materials and equipment to actually do their day-to-day work. For example, two of the members were blind: whilst supported by assistant colleagues, their capacity for independent work was limited, affecting their ability to support the implementation of the Inclusive Education Strategy. These conditions were both personally challenging and represented a barrier to the huge potential the SEU had to offer. There are a large number of special schools in Tanzania, whose insight could prove invaluable, but they were not being consulted. The SEU should be the ones making the decisions. They have the skills and the empathy to develop an effective strategy and improve learning conditions. They understand the difficulties that come with growing up blind or in a vulnerable situation.
We involved them in the creation of the strategy – in fact we simply could not have done it without them. Then we arranged to provide them with equipment and training that would empower them to monitor its implementation – as well as the other reforms that are currently going on in Tanzania. They attended an eight-day workshop on assistive computing technology for blind users.
We partnered with ITAC, a Kenyan consultancy specialising in sourcing and providing adaptive and assistive technologies to enable disabled people to integrate into society. The workshops were provided by James Gichuhi, a veteran trainer in assistive technologies. It was only when James arrived that we realised he is fully blind himself, so he proved an inspiring and effective trainer for the team.
Our two blind colleagues were each supplied with a laptop equipped with Job Access With Speech (JAWS) software, as well as a 40-cell Braille display, and an Eye-Pal Ace portable reader and text scanner with optical character recognition (OCR) software. They learnt about navigation, keyboard skills, reading with a Braille display, internet browsing, scanning and reading documents with the Eye-Pal and OCR software, and also key programmes in the Microsoft Office suite. The next piece of assistive technology – the Everest DV-5 embosser – will allow them to print and read documents in Braille.
The transformation was incredible to see. Now, they can record their thoughts on a screen, rather than ask others to type them out. Likewise, reading Braille with their fingertips is much quicker than waiting for others to read the words to them. Of course, this also frees up the time of their able-sighted colleagues. There is a huge boost in terms of independence and morale, but also in terms of efficiency and ability to deal with new workloads.
Our colleagues were so excited to begin working with this new equipment. They are incorporating it into their everyday working lives. They can now operate independently and effectively within their department, undertaking tasks which in the past were a far greater struggle. This enthusiasm is no surprise: everyone wants to make a difference at work, rather than go through the motions, especially in this case, where marginalised children across Tanzania can benefit from these individuals’ unique insights and the support they can now offer others.
However, this technological and capacity building support is not a panacea: a number of challenges still remain for the unit, both institutional and practical. Ensuring that other departments understand that the Special Education Unit’s new competencies and capacity is key, and there may need to be some training in terms of the sensitivities or allowances that other Ministry officials need to make. For example, it would be helpful to send material three days before a meeting, so they have time to get up to speed. Other more prosaic challenge – such as the fact the technology operates in English, rather than Kiswahili, Tanzania’s national language – may take longer to address, though with increased attention on marginalised groups in low-income countries, there is hope for future developments.
The impact on the Unit is hard to describe. They are happier and freer as they go about their work. They tell us how good it feels to make a proper contribution. Having been somewhat overlooked in previous years, they now are an active part of the Ministry and are implementing a strategy that they have essentially created from the beginning. They will be part of its successes too, and will both embody and extend the promise that is given to all children Tanzania: uhuru na umoja – independence, and unity.
Cambridge Education is lead consultant for Tanzania Education Program for Results (EPforR), an innovative, results-based financing programme supported by the World Bank, UK Aid, and the Swedish Government.