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African scheme Open to Queen's award

Inspiring OU project offering basic training to Sub-Saharan teachers scoops prize

Inspiring OU project offering basic training to Sub-Saharan teachers scoops prize

First, work out what your curriculum is. Then break it up into subjects and topics. Once you have done this, decide how much of each topic you can fit into a single lesson. This is called lesson planning.

While British teachers may bemoan an excess of government intervention, an award-winning teacher-training programme has been developed to help those who suffer from the opposite problem.

The Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa programme, run by the Open University, was this week awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for its "exceptional contribution" to the wider community.

The programme, which is currently followed by 200,000 African teachers, provides participants with a basic course in some of the essentials of British teaching. So African teachers are given instructions in techniques that their British counterparts might take for granted.

For example, one module lays out the value of lesson planning.

"A successful lesson will show you can assess how much your pupils have achieved, and that both you and they know what they need to tackle next," the resource pack states.

Another section highlights the importance of asking pupils questions, rather than merely lecturing them. New concepts should also be clearly explained. "Explaining is the giving of understanding to another," the resource states. "To explain well, you, the teacher, have to understand the subject matter well."

An illustrated chapter describes how brainstorming and mind-mapping can be used by a group to develop new ways of tackling a problem. The resource explains: "A mind-map reduces large amounts of information into an easy-to-understand diagram that shows the relationships and patterns between different aspects of the topic."

The programme has been developed jointly by academics at the Open University and in 13 African institutions. The aim is to support teachers in nine countries and the website offers training materials in four languages: English, Arabic, French and Kiswahili. The aim is for an additional 100,000 teachers to be using the materials by 2010.

Freda Wolfenden, director of the programme, points out that many teachers in sub-Saharan Africa are unqualified and untrained. And, unlike their counterparts in Britain, they are not issued with detailed strategies by the government.

"In the past, there was a huge emphasis on getting pupils into school," she said. "Now the focus is shifting on to what's going on in the classroom. In many places there's a gap between aspirations and the realities of the classroom."


- The proportion of primary-age children enrolled in school in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from 56 per cent in 1999 to 70 per cent in 2006.

- This means an additional 34 million pupils were in school, the fastest increase of any region across the globe.

- It has been estimated that an additional 2.4 teachers would be needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015.

- 75 per cent of secondary-age children are still not enrolled in school.

- 78 per cent of girls drop out of school, compared with 48 per cent of boys.

- Eleven sub-Saharan countries spend less than 4 per cent of their GDP on education.

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