Teacher motivation

How can we motivate teachers to turn up for work every day, to use effective teaching practices that work in their resource poor classrooms?  Underlying all Power Teachers’ Africa’s work is the human focus – the realities of teachers.

It is critical to take into account the humanity of teachers and what motivates all humans most effectively. We know this from years of research findings on reform implementation – the phenomenology of change, i.e. that change is not simple, and is dependent on human beings to implement, so you must work with what works to support people to change.

We need good teachers for the over 150 million primary school children currently enrolled in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the 30 million who are out of school. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, and West and North Africa, teachers tend to be poorly paid, in many countries, at least some teaching without any qualifications, and many teachers teaching in very poor conditions. A 2013 Teachers’ Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (TISSA) study highlighted that teachers are in crisis. A more recent study from Uganda in 2017 to inform the new national Teacher Policy found that teachers in Uganda were very dissatisfied and demoralized. 47% indicated that they were dissatisfied with their job and around 78% believe that their colleagues are dissatisfied with theirs. Most teachers (84%) would like to leave the profession within two years. Half of the respondents mentioned salary as the main cause of job dissatisfaction, only 16% aspire to stay in their jobs in two years, 59% if to start career again would not choose teaching.

It is no wonder that there is a shortage of teachers across the world – with 69m more teachers needed to provide universal primary and secondary education by 2030.

Teachers are seriously demotivated. How can we address this?

The 2017 Ugandan Teacher Policy provides a useful Teacher Incentive framework of teacher motivation relevant to all countries. It is centered on four teacher incentive strategies classified under any of:

  • Professional rewards
  • Accountability pressures
  • Clarity of expectations of teachers
  • Financial incentives

The financial incentive strategy is one that governments and donors have tended to shy away from. However, at the World Bank’s 2019 launch of the Global Platform for Successful Teachers, teacher pay was highlighted as an issue that leads to poor teacher performance. This is very significant, in light of economists for years advising against increasing teachers’ salaries.

Power Teachers’ Africa believes that provision of financial incentives, when effectively managed, will be much more cost effective than the current aid modalities. The 2017 Uganda Teacher Incentive Framework (TIF) study highlighted poor pay as the major demotivating factor for Ugandan teachers’ poor performance. In recent years, there have been a number of interventions involving increasing teacher pay in order to improve teacher performance and even though the research findings are mixed, those that did not have positive impact were to do with issues in the implementation of the incentive.  For example, in Indonesia, a doubling of teachers’ salaries in recent years has not led to improvement in children’s learning or teacher performance. However, analysis highlights that the issue is how the financial incentives were introduced and managed – there was no requirement of teachers to improve their performance upon the doubling of their salaries. Power Teachers Africa has completed extensive research on this issue, which it has found is key.

Power Teachers Africa seeks to improve Teacher motivation, and through it, presence and performance through:

  • Performance incentives, financial and non-financial, based on presence, performance and student learning
  • Improved teacher capacity – through teachers’ own use of digital off- and on-line professional development that improves student learning
  • Research based advocacy to inform government policies and donors’ teacher support strategies
  • Developing self-financing options to support the sustainability of Power Teachers Africa