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TEIs help with action plan

Scotland's teacher education institutions had what was described as a "very productive" meeting with the First Minister on Tuesday to discuss what they could do to train more teachers in Malawi.

The TEIs were asked to come up with proposals which will form part of an action plan for Malawi, expected to be agreed between Jack McConnell and President Bingu wa Mutharika when he pays a visit to Scotland in November.

Strathclyde University's education faculty is already heavily involved in training teacher educators in Malawi, through the Malawi Millennium Project. As far back as 1999, Chancellor College, one of five teacher training colleges in the country, sent seven of its staff to be trained in early learning at Strathclyde.

The pressures on teacher training increased greatly when free primary education was introduced in 1994 and the number of pupils who enrolled leapt from 1.9 million to 3 million (although World Bank estimates are that only one in three children completes five years of education).

The Malawi government reckons it is now short of 18,000 teachers if it is to meet its target of one teacher for every 60 pupils (the ratio is currently 1:95, against 1:14.6 in Scotland).

While help to train more teachers has been welcomed, Mr Mutharika suggested to Mr McConnell last week that a special fund should be set up to pay for Malawian professionals living abroad to return home on secondment to pass on their expertise.

The president is also looking for support to "build capacity" in the country's higher education system. There are presently only 15,000 HE students in its universities, but Mr Mutharika said most end up as civil servants. He wants to see HE equipped to offer courses in business management and enterprise as well as science and technology so more graduates move into the private sector to grow the economy and start creating wealth.

Mr McConnell promised to consider all of the president's suggestions as part of his action plan.

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