Teacher Education in the Developing World

A philanthropic trust based here in Edinburgh has asked me to undertake a short term research project and feasibility study to examine:

  • the challenges currently facing teacher education in the developing world, and;
  • the potential for developing an open cloud-based platform for learning – CommonLearn – that will serve the varied purposes of teacher-educators, teachers and learners in these and other parts of the world.

The Trust for which work is being done is itself involved in a number of education ands health projects in various parts of the developing world, and it is keen to gather some insight into teacher education in order to better inform its own evaluation of future projects in that sphere. This analysis will be closely linked to my work on developing the concept of CommonLearn, but the preceding post to this one dealt with the concept of CommonLearn in some detail, so I will focus in this post on some of the issues around teacher education, especially (though by no means exclusively) in the developing world.

Teacher Education

The world undoubtedly needs teachers like never before. It needs large numbers of new teachers and it needs those teachers to be proficient and accomplished in what they do in the classroom. UNESCO estimated in 2008 that we would need some 10m new teachers by 2015 to cope with the combined effects of population increase and the increasing numbers of children worldwide being given the opportunity to attend school, as well as to offset the natural attrition of teachers exiting the profession globally.

TeacherandPupil_sml_UgWhile millions more children are now in school than before, there are many parts of the world where the Millennium Development Goal on primary education for all will not be achieved. In 2011, around 60m children were still out of school. Just as disturbing was the estimate of more than double that figure – 123m young people – who were still unable to read and write. Children can spend more than 4 years in school and still emerge illiterate. In addition, approximately a quarter of children who start primary schooling do not finish it, a rate that has not changed since 2000.

In this context, the quality of teaching is of paramount importance. Getting children into school is one thing; ensuring they have a good standard of education when they get there, and that they choose to complete schooling, is another. Many countries simply do not yet have the capacity to produce the numbers of well-trained teachers needed, and we need to look to increase capacity and improve the productivity of current systems in innovative and radical ways if all the world’s children are to be educated successfully.

teacher_pupilThe intention behind this short term research initiative is to review and analyse the current state of teacher education across the developing world, and to gather examples and evidence of effective practice in the training and professional development of teachers across the world. Governments the world over are looking for alternative approaches, and new providers, to schooling and to teacher education.

I intend making contact with a wide range of people and organisations across the globe in order to gain a deeper understanding of the current context of teacher education in different geographies. I want to explore the issues that those I speak with might identify as critical to the needs of teacher educators and to trainee-teachers, as well as the major factors influencing policy-making at governmental level. The aim will be to produce a broad overview of the current status of teacher education across the developing world.

I will seek to analyse the challenges faced by teacher educators and to establish the critical gaps in practice, resources, capacity-building, recruitment and deployment of teachers in the various systems looked at. An awareness of the full set of persistent and recurring obstacles facing teacher education, as well as some insight into successful and effective practice where that can be identified, will establish a base of knowledge that will support the design and development of the CommonLearn concept.

The questions I am focusing on for the moment are:

  • The current state of teacher education around the world, but especially in developing countries:
  • The similarities and differences from country to country and continent to continent?
  • The key challenges facing teacher education around the world at the present time;
  • The persistent and recurring obstacles to change and improvement in teacher education currently?
  • The main shortcomings arising out of these and other challenges?
  • The key strengths, if any, in current teacher education practice?
  • How are the challenges and obstacles being overcome, if they are? And, if not, how should they be overcome?
  • Some examples of effective and successful practice in teacher education?

Anyone wishing to join the conversation around Teacher Education, whether across the developing world in particular, or elsewhere in the world can go the CommonLearn website and blog – feel free to comment or even to register and contribute posts on any relevant topic. If anyone wish to leave some video feedback on the concept via the amazing Miituu application, please go to:

Feedback on Teacher Education

I welcome contributions from anyone by any means you prefer to use, whether email, Skype or Twitter:

Email: johnconnell [at] iamlearner.net

Skype: I_Am_Learner

Twitter: https://twitter.com/I_Am_Learner