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Putting teachers at the heart of policy development in Africa and beyond

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To learn, students need teachers who are trained, qualified, motivated and well-resourced. To achieve this, countries need comprehensive, holistic teacher policies that are developed with the close involvement of teachers and their representative organizations. That’s why the Teacher Task Force (TTF) has worked with its partners to create the Teacher Policy Development Guide, which aims to strengthen teachers and the teaching profession by fostering such national policies.

On 7 July 2021, the TTF and UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity-building in Africa (IICBA) held a joint workshop for the African region on building national capacity in teacher policy development. The workshop was attended by more than 120 participants who shared their experiences of teacher policy development. Participating in the workshop, Ms Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Egypt’s Deputy Minister for Teacher Affairs, Dr Reda Hegazy, and other national stakeholders from Mali and Uganda highlighted important lessons including:

  • Teachers are a central component to ensuring quality education; therefore, it is crucial to listen to teachers at all levels and include them and their representatives throughout the teacher policy development process;
  • There are key tensions regarding education access and quality in Africa, which requires effective benchmarking to budget expansion of the workforce against the quest to ensure that teachers are qualified and trained;
  • The goal of teacher policies should be to professionalize teachers and build their autonomy. Given the lack of qualified teachers across the region, fully integrating teacher training in policy-making is critical; it should include initial and continuing professional development and foster self-directed learning, mentoring and the creation of communities of practice;
  • Teacher policies need to include past, present and future perspectives. They should build on past successes and lessons learned and also be flexible and forward looking to ensure they support teachers’ present and future needs to ensure quality education.
  • Reliable and valid data and indicators on teachers collected at country level are key to inform effective teacher policy development.

According to Dr Egau Okou from the Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda, crafting the best possible teacher policy also requires high-level support within government as well as careful planning and coordination among all stakeholders involved, to take into account the complex, interrelated dimensions that affect teaching and education. As the Teacher Policy Development Guide states,

A holistic national teacher policy that is adequately resourced and implemented with the necessary political will and administrative skill can be a vital first step on the road to achieving a highly motivated, professional teaching corps”.

 

What is included in the Teacher Policy Development Guide to support effective policy-making?

The Teacher Policy Development Guide advocates a holistic approach based on guiding principles:

  • vision or mission statement;
  • targets, benchmarks and timelines;
  • comprehensive coverage of key dimensions;
  • assessing the environment for challenges, gaps and difficulties;
  • relevant data and management;
  • coordination mechanisms;
  • funding needs and sources;
  • participation and stakeholder commitment; and
  • evaluation and revision.

 

The guide also emphasizes nine interrelated, context-sensitive dimensions that are essential for an integrated, comprehensive national teacher policy:

  • Teacher recruitment and retention needs to take into account human resource needs, how to attract and retain teachers, teachers’ employment status, licensing and certification, equity in teacher recruitment, recruitment of school leaders and recruitment in fragile states and emergency situations.
  • Teacher education comprises three stages:  initial teacher education, an induction period and continuing professional development. The guide covers selection criteria, curricula, qualifications and professional development of teacher educators, and mentoring of newly qualified teachers.
  • Deployment strategy needs to address equitable deployment, initial postings, the right of teachers to balance family life, managing transfers, and balancing the needs of teachers and the school.
  • Career structure needs to reflect the requirements of the education system, and be diversified, equitable and closely tied to other policy dimensions.
  • Teachers’ employment and working conditions need to create a conducive teaching environment by considering hours of work and work-life balance, class size, school infrastructure, ensuring quality teaching and learning materials, student behaviour and discipline, school violence, and teachers’ autonomy.
  • Teacher rewards and remuneration includes establishing salary scales, and financial and non-financial incentives, taking into account teacher recruitment, retention, development, motivation and effectiveness.
  • Teacher standards need to clearly describe what constitutes good teaching and which skills and knowledge teachers need to deliver this. The guide elaborates on structure and content of standards, use of standards, standards for head teachers and key conditions for their successful implementation.
  • Teacher accountability elaborates issues of performance evaluation, appraisal, incentives and quality assurance.
  • School governance includes aspects of school leadership, and the roles of everyone involved in ensuring the development of a material and cultural environment conducive to effective teaching and learning.

The Guide is a tool to help countries develop teacher policies that are specific to their national context, drawing on good practices from a wide range of countries and organizations. It provides examples of how different dimensions of teacher policy are covered in various countries along with a reference list of existing international and global guidelines and frameworks to guide the policy development process. Building on its practical orientation, it includes various features including checklists and tips.

 

Key phases in the national teacher policy process

The guide describes the key stages of policy formulation, the roles of everyone involved and considers costing and policy implementation. In particular it highlights the following phases of a “policy life-cycle approach” as a framework to assist ministries in formulating policies including:

  1. issue identification and agenda-setting
  2. policy formulation – analysis, principles and options
  3. adoption/ decision
  4. implementation – communication and dissemination
  5. monitoring and evaluation.

During the workshop, the representative from Uganda stressed a number of key lessons learned during the development of their new teacher policy. In particular this included the developing of an exhaustive diagnostic study to assist for identifying issues and setting the agenda prior to policy development work. She also stressed the role of strong leadership and inclusive and accountable processes throughout.

 

Examining the use of the Teacher Policy Development Guide across Africa

The Guide has been used in a number of countries globally and across Africa. A study commissioned by the TTF, to be released later this year, will examine its application in teacher policy development across nine African countries, including the processes it stimulated and the outputs of the policy development process itself. The study will illustrate how the Guide has be an effective tool in support of national policy-making, as confirmed by other countries attending the joint workshop.

For more information about the guide, see: https://teachertaskforce.org/what-we-do/country-support/teacher-policy-development-guide

For more information about the workshop including a recording of the workshop, see: https://teachertaskforce.org/events/regional-virtual-capacity-building-workshop-teacher-policy-development-africa

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Photo credit: Connor Ashleigh for AusAID