Can MOOCs and ICTs help in training reflective teachers and practitioners in Africa? A quality education challenge?
As Africa continues to grapple with the issue of the increasing shortage of teachers in general, and more importantly of those with the necessary qualifications and competencies to impart quality and relevant education, innovations such as MOOCs could come handy in addressing the dire state of in-service teacher education and training (INSET) on the continent. Indeed, poorly trained and unqualified teachers have become the norm in most classrooms across the continent as the rush to meet the quantitative goals of EFA and MDGs by 2015 had taken precedence over the qualitative ones. The net effect of these policies is that while most of the developed world has made the Teacher the cornerstone of their strategies to ensure that their citizens master the 21st Century competencies and skills, Africa is reduced to upgrading as best as it can a sub-standard educated, poorly trained and paid teaching force. Finland, in contrast, has demonstrated that its teaching force, one of the best trained and compensated in the world, is at the root of its successes as measured by major international learning achievement assessment tests such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the OECD. Twenty-first Century teachers are supposed to be reflective professionals, meaning that they critically analyze/reflect on their actions and decisions while teaching. They use student-centered pedagogies and their own experiences to improve teaching and learning processes. They also work within communities of practice.
INSET Policies in Africa
In a report issued in 2015, ADEA and its partners (UNESCO, the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA and the Commonwealth Secretariat) took stock of and assessed the effectiveness of INSET policies and practices in in eight countries (Central African Republic, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia) and concluded that these are “often variable and anecdotal resulting in a growing concern about the efficacy of existing professional development in meeting the training needs of teachers”. The following approaches to INSET have been documented: (i) upgrading teachers’ qualifications through full or part-time courses at the university level; (ii) one-off in-service teacher training at designated centers (usually during school breaks) and (iii) the school-based training provided by more experienced teachers in their schools. The first approach to INSET is readily available in most countries but it is costly and takes away a teacher from the classroom for a more or less long period of time. The last two approaches are increasingly used at the basic education levels with varying degrees of success but the study indicates that the school-based approach gives greater opportunities to provide one-on-one support to individual teachers in their classrooms and has proven more beneficial to the trainees. However, its implementation has greater financial implications in contexts with huge numbers of teachers to train such as in heavily populated countries.