Would Africa Adopt 21st Century Teacher Education to Boost Access and Quality?
Africa is a continent that could not reach all of the six 2000 Dakar Education for All (EFA) Goals as the deadline of 2015 for achieving them came and passed. It could neither achieve providing universal access to basic education for all of its children nor meet the quality and relevance imperative of the education it imparts to the ones who have made it to school. The EFA Goals have now been replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and quality and relevance have now been placed center-stage as the international community recommits itself to breaking the generational poverty cycle among the world disadvantaged populations through education and training by 2030. The 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) sums up the educational challenges facing Africa in its bid to reach the SDGs by the set deadline: (i) providing access to basic education to 30 million children and recruiting and training 1.4 million additional teachers; (ii) increasing access to secondary education by 50% in order to meet the foundational skills needs of the African youth; and (iii) expanding its higher educational enrollment rate from 7% to the world average of 30%.
There is now a common agreement that teachers are the most important determinant of quality and relevance of education. However, Africa trains less and less its teachers at all levels as teacher training is proving to be very costly. It is estimated that to pay the salaries of additional primary school teachers needed to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2020 in Sub-Saharan Africa, US$4 billion is needed annually (GMR 2014). This has led a good number of countries to choose quantity over quality by recruiting unqualified teachers and, more often than not, without any substantive policy for pre-and in-service training and education. The 2015 GMR indicates that on average only 79% of all African teachers were trained in 2012 and the range in percentage can vary from as low as 39% (Guinea Bissau) in some countries. This is a major impediment to quality as evidenced in reports of learning outcomes assessments that report that in many African countries 3rd graders cannot read nor understand basic text in the languages of instruction, including in their mother tongues (GMR 2015). This is a major indictment of the poor teaching and learning processes happening in classrooms. In secondary education where foundational skills are key in preparing students for further education and vocational training, teachers lack proper training, both pre and in-service, in important subject matters such as mathematics and the sciences. Moreover, the universities where these teachers are supposed to receive their training are very few and confronted with limited human, financial resources and physical capacities.