Quality teachers deliver better learning outcome

Teacher of the Year Award (TOYA) winner Elijah Ogot (right) from St. Theresa's Tartar Girls in West Pokot celebrates after he was declared this year's winner at the end of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA) annual delegates conference in Mombasa. [Gideon Maundu/Standard]
If pupils are the lifeblood of schools, teachers are the organs; working tirelessly to ensure learning happens throughout the year. Parents know the quality of teachers is indicative of learning outcomes for their children. The 2018 Global Parents Survey showed that teacher quality is the most important factor for parents when choosing their child’s school, alongside location, with 45 per cent of parents surveyed selecting it as one of their top three criteria.

Teachers, and those that have taught, know what an amazing vocation it can be; to watch children flourish and learn. They will also be familiar with stresses that teaching can cause; ensuring that each and every child is receiving the quality education they deserve is no small feat. Teachers do not need a burdensome environment and constant obstacles to make this feat even harder to achieve. It’s hard enough already. Sadly, for millions of teachers across the world, the environment in which they are expected to teach is often an insurmountable barrier to actually teaching. While many teachers in wealthier countries do have access to effective training and support, the same cannot be said for teachers in developing countries.

Developing countries, where the demand for teachers is greatest are affected the most. The world needs 69 million new teachers by 2030 to realise Sustainable Development Goal 4. The likelihood of achieving this is low while governments struggle to recruit and retain teachers, especially in remote areas and conflict zones. For many schools, this desperate shortage of good teachers means that poor literacy and absenteeism are the norm. The Skills towards Employability and Productivity skills survey of working adults, including teachers, showed that in Kenya, 72 per cent of teachers did not reach Level 3 on the literacy test, which is considered the minimum literacy level to teach effectively. Plus, in schools with overcrowded classrooms and a shortage of resources, even if teachers are literate there there are simply not enough of them for learning to actually happen.

Final insult, many are not paid on time even when they do turn up to teach. Certainly the current situation cannot stay the same and teachers who turn up to class every day despite these conditions – many don’t – want it to change.

The most motivating and fulfilling part of being a teacher is, of course, teaching. However, many teachers find there is little time left in a day for productive teaching. They have little to no assistance in creating the lessons which they are expected – and often ill equipped – to teach; they spend a lot of time doing administrative tasks and often have to take second jobs to ensure they get a reliable income each month. This is not what inspired them to go into teaching.

In this frustrated landscape, corporal punishment adds another layer of damage to failing systems. Fear replaces trust as the basis of the teacher-pupil relationship. This environment corrodes both the child’s ability to learn and teachers, the ability to teach. Classrooms are meant to be safe spaces and this not true wherever corporal punishment is practiced. This is the state of many schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. Broken. Failing. Where teachers, parents and pupils are crying out for help, support and reform. They deserve better. It’s not surprising that in this context, learning outcomes are low and motivation is rock bottom.

Bridge International Academies are transforming the teaching landscape in partnership with governments and teacher training colleges. Our priority is creating the best possible learning environment where great teaching enables great learning. If teachers are happy and motivated, so are pupils. The classroom is where it all happens, facilitating that as a positive setting for effective learning interactions to take place is the most crucial part of what we do as an organisation.

The writer is the Communications Manager at Bridge International Academies

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