African scheme Open to Queen's award

4th December 2009 at 00:00
Inspiring OU programme 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 last 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 who are largely unqualified and untrained, 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. 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."

The programme has been developed jointly by academics at the Open University and in 13 African institutions. It supports 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, comments: "In the past, there was a huge emphasis on getting pupils into school," she said. "Now the focus is shifting to what's going on in the classroom. In many places, there's a gap between aspirations and the realities of the classroom."

Sub-Saharan stats

  • 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 - an extra 34 million pupils;
  • 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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