As access to education progresses, students around the world are sitting in classrooms for the first time, but aren’t yet learning. Student assessments continue to highlight this discrepancy. ASER found that today only 44% of Indian students in 8th grade can perform basic division; in Uganda the most recent SACMEQ results show that less than 10% of 6th grade students are reading at grade level.
Innovators committed to reversing this disparity are looking critically at each and every component in a child's education, yet one of the most obvious factors continues to be one of the most important: teachers. Many teachers still lack the knowledge and training to be effective, but passionate implementers are leveraging creative solutions to tackle the problem head-on.
The challenge is immense, but the good news is that initiatives to better train teachers are spreading fast. The Center for Education Innovations (CEI) is proud to profile some of the most innovative teacher-training programs today in our Program Database and help disseminate their new approaches to confront persistent problems and encourage the sharing of knowledge and learning:
Pride in teaching: A renewed focus on recruiting talented educators
In many countries, the best graduates often don’t end up where they are most needed- working as teachers. Corona iTeach in Nigeria aims to attract promising recent university graduates to careers in teaching, even if they may not have studied education. By providing an intensive program that opens the door to a career in teaching, the free program simultaneously tackles two challenges: the shortage of high-quality, well-trained teachers and the lack of jobs available to recent graduates. Now training their 5th cohort of aspiring educators, Corona iTeach is changing the discourse around teachers in Nigeria. Programs like iTeach raise the status of teaching as a profession and help raise educational standards.
Haitian education deals with many of the same problems, including a desperate need for better-qualified teachers shaping the future of Haitian children. Nedgine Paul co-founded Anseye Pou Ayiti (“Teach for Haiti” in Haitian Creole) when she learned that only 20% of Haitian teachers had formal training. Anseye Pou Ayiti recruits, trains and places recent top Haitian university graduates and current teachers into under-resourced rural primary schools for two-year fellowships to combat inequitable access to quality education and low primary school completion rates. The program’s second cohort began in 2016, and they hope to expand the program to reach 250 teachers and impact over 16,000 students within five years.
Building a chain reaction of learning: Motivating educators through in-service training
While programs that offer certificate courses and intensive training to new teachers are undoubtedly valuable, many current teachers don’t have the time or knowledge to seek out such opportunities. Redearth Education delivers in-service teacher training directly to government primary schools in Uganda. The organization uses a cascade model so that improved teaching practices can spread beyond program schools. Since 2008, hundreds of teachers have received training in areas such as positive behavior management and interactive teaching methods. In addition, 20 talented “Lead Teachers” have received extra training, and have been permitted by local government to take 20 half days per year to support teachers in other schools develop good practice. To spread enthusiasm and confidence, Redearth also awards teachers for good instructional practice, leading to more hard-working teachers and healthy competition between schools.
In Cambodia, building the knowledge and confidence of teachers is a pressing concern: the country’s education system was totally dismantled by the Khmer Rouge 40 years ago. The SeeBeyondBorders Teach the Teacher program offers targeted trainings in good teaching practices and pairs each teacher with a Cambodian mentor-teacher who will help them create individual plans to improve instruction. Recognizing the importance of motivation and pride in effective teaching, SeeBeyondBorders also uses a teacher awards program to recognize improved professional standards. Teach the Teacher has touched almost 30,000 Cambodian students so far, and was honored by UNESCO this year for its outstanding results is enhancing the effectiveness of teachers: between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of grade 1-3 students passing the grade in math has increased from 48% to 80%.
Looking beyond literacy: Improving teaching methods in math and science
Based in Capetown, South Africa, The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Schools Enrichment Centre (AIMSSEC) provides professional development courses for mathematics teachers, subject advisers, and field trainers across the country. With much of the debate around teacher quality focusing on literacy, their focus on introducing new mathematics teaching skills, improving subject knowledge, and extending educational opportunities for teachers in rural areas is greatly needed. Since 2004, 1,707 teachers have completed the intensive Mathematical Thinking course, and are working to engage students in math learning as a process of “guided discovery” instead of rote memorization.
Also in South Africa, the Primary Science Programme (PSP) provides training, classroom support and teaching materials to over 1,300 teachers each year to improve the quality of teaching and learning in disadvantaged primary schools. Recently, the program has been awarded for their innovative work in STEM education: workshops focus on activities that develop of math, science, and technology concepts as well as practical teaching methodologies. The PSP ensures that all math and science work is integrated with language classes, and training workshops are followed by individual classroom mentoring, coaching and support visits. In response to high demand for their services, PSP has recently expanded from just the Western Cape to target schools in the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape as well.
When programs like Corona iTeach, Anseye Pou Ayiti, Redearth Education, Teach the Teacher, AIMSSEC, and PSP invest in teachers, they are investing in one of the most critical factors in helping to make sure children aren’t just sitting in classrooms- they’re learning and preparing to become the innovators and leaders of our future.
At CEI, we want to hear from you: what other teacher training programs would you like to see profiled in our database? How are organizations in your region ensuring children receive the high-quality education they deserve? Let us know at email@example.com, or tweet @educationinnovations
Corinne Hoogakker is pursuing her MA in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She works as an intern at the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) at R4D. In the last few years, she has served as a primary school teacher in Palestine and worked in educational administration in DC public schools.
Photo credits (top to bottom): Jonathan Ernst / World Bank ; Corona Schools' Trust Council ; Anseye Pou Ayiti ; SeeBeyondBorders ; Red Earth Education ; AIMSSEC ; PSP