Good teachers are the key to development

No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated - Nelson Mandela

Everyone accepts the benefits of Education – they are manifold, but especially for low-income countries and emerging economies, and include :

  • Education reduces poverty by 30%
  • Each additional year of school increases earnings by 10%
  • One additional school year can increase a woman’s earnings by 10% to 20%.
  • In 2050, GDP in low-income counties will be almost 50% higher if all children are learning
  • A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5
  • Education is critical to addressing climate change and for sustainability

(Global Partnership for Education, 2019)

Education without learning is not education. Teachers are THE key to learning – even in this digital age, research demonstrates that teachers are needed to guide and facilitate digital learning, and for younger children in the development of the basic skills of literacy, numeracy, and life-skills, and particularly in resource poor environments like Agnes.

In low-income and emerging economy countries, research definitively demonstrates that the highest aid strategy returns are those that are pedagogy and teacher focused, i.e. what goes on in classrooms. Programmes seeking to improve pedagogy have had an impact greater than the equivalent of an extra half year of business-as-usual schooling and an 8% increase in the present discounted value of lifetime earnings (Evans and Yuan, 2017). In the US, students with great teachers advance 1.5 grade levels or more in one school year, compared with just 0.5 grade levels for those with ineffective teachers (Hanushek, 1992; Rockoff, 2002). Shanghai topped PISA in 2013 thanks to policies that ensured every classroom had a prepared, supported and motivated teacher (Liang et al, 2016).

Hence, the huge focus from donors on developing teacher capacity. Almost every initiative and intervention in recent years incorporates teacher training that often seeks to bring about improved pedagogical practices and ultimately children’s learning, from workshop based to mentoring teacher training approaches. A survey of in-service teacher training in 38 countries found that 91% of teachers participated in the previous 12 months (Strizek et al, 2014). 2/3 World Bank projects with an education component in the last decade incorporated teacher professional development. UNICEF also supports teacher training in most of its 193 country offices. The WB’s World Development Report (WDR) highlighted that “developing countries spend many millions annually” (WDR, 2018, p. 131).

Yet, the huge investments in teacher training – financial and human – have little to show for them, too many children throughout Africa are still failing to learn. A recent study from the World Bank showed that only 9% of teachers in sub Saharan Africa had the minimum required knowledge of pedagogy to effectively teach the curriculum, and only 7% could correctly mark a year 4 test on spelling and comprehension. The literature is scattered with the failures of innumerable teacher training projects as well as government teacher training. For example, currently, US$500 million approximately is being spent by donors on education projects in Uganda, all of them incorporating teacher training. Sadly, they are all using “business as usual” strategies, with some success while the projects are taking place, however, as research has demonstrated time and time again, once the projects are completed, teachers revert to previous practices that are ineffective in bringing about learning.

Albert Einstein defined this as insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.   Power Teachers Africa is about this – finding another way that works, a way that supports sustainability above all. If we do not find another way, we will continue to fail too many ‘Beatrices’. “Business as usual” will not work to address the key global education issue in low-income countries – low learning outcomes, in literacy, numeracy and 21st century skills. 

Power Teachers Africa has developed a model for piloting in one African country with Ministry of Education support – can you support Power Teachers Africa to refine it for rollout?