The fact that there are more schoolchildren in the world than ever before reflects evident developmental progress. However, many of these children still do not leave school with basic literacy or mathematical skills. The main reason for this is a shortage of well-trained teachers. Teachers are the most critical factor in the quality of education and student learning outcomes, so a shortage of trained teachers jeopardizes the quality, inclusiveness and equity of education. While the acute shortage of well- qualified teachers is a global concern, the largest shortage is found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Towards a Solution
Launched in 2012, the UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust (CFIT) is a flagship project on enhancing quality teacher training in Africa through South-South Cooperation. With the support by the government of the People’s Republic of China, UNESCO has leveraged USD 12 million to provide dedicated support to 10 African countries.
The project aims at using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), including computers, the internet, and mobile devices to support target countries in enhancing the capacities of their teacher training institutions. The aim is to increase the quantity and improve the quality of both pre- and in-service teachers. The project contributes to the achievement of the SDGs, particularly SDG 4 on inclusive and equitable quality education, and especially target 4.c on increasing the supply of qualified teachers through international cooperation for teacher education/training in developing countries, as well as SDG 9 on infrastructure and innovation.
More specifically, the CFIT project supports a selected number of targeted national key teacher training institutions in the beneficiary countries by:
- Strengthening existing pre-service programmes, particularly through ICT-supported blended training programmes and successful ICT supported innovations;
- Strengthening teacherscontinuous in-service professional development, particularly through blended learning modalities and successful ICT supported innovations;
- Enhancing the capacity of teacher trainers with ICT competencies to improve the quality of teaching and learning; and
- Improving networks of teacher education/training institutions for promoting knowledge-sharing on effective strategies and teaching practices.
Since 2012, the project has conducted over 100 training workshops and trained over 10,000 teacher educators. More than 230 teacher training modules or policy documents have been developed or revised, and are being institutionalized. Over 2,400 pieces of equipment were purchased and installed. Seven online teaching and learning platforms and three digital libraries were established, linking over 30 teacher training institutions.
While the project defined a set of common objectives, local stakeholders in every one of the ten beneficiary countries were able to set priorities and design strategies to meet national and local needs. In- country stakeholders are able to build synergies between the project and similar national or regional initiatives supported by other partners. ”Whatever learning material is developed through the support of other donors, we make it available online and integrate it in the platform that has been developed by the project”, said the Senior Lecturer and Director at Kyambogo University, Uganda. Furthermore, close collaboration among local partners, international experts and UNESCO Field Offices in Africa have increased networking and the sharing of knowledge and best practices, with backstopping from UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA).
Beneficiary countries have also joined a number of study tours for peer learning and South-South cooperation. Teacher educators from beneficiary countries are also encouraged to join the UNESCO- China Great Wall Fellowship by taking a one-year specially-tailored programme at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China.
Successful UNESCO-CFIT approaches like co-creating projects with local stakeholders focusing on the specific needs of each target country in terms of teacher education and designing specific strategies to meet those needs, with strong components of peer learning and knowledge-sharing, including through fellowship programmes, can be applied in other developing countries. Projects should not be ‘replicated’ per se but rather tailored to the specific country context with the inclusive participation of multiple stakeholders and aiming to also capitalize on existing related initiatives. There must first be a needs assessment of the country and an identification of relevant stakeholders/institutions.