Recent IRFOL research on the use of distance education for teacher education reveals a lack of detailed information and guidance for policy makers on three aspects of distance education for teachers: models of decentralised management; student support and assessment of classroom practice; and technology choice.
The present study narrows the focus to these three aspects of teacher training in sub-Saharan Africa and investigates the variety of new training programmes aiming to meet the growing demand for teachers due to Universal Primary Education announcements, expanding enrolments and AIDS attrition. Trends are examined in light of the literature on political economy, decentralisation, the Education For All (EFA) campaign and donor activities.
The study finds evidence of an emerging new model of teacher education in the region, referred to here as the field-based model, of which distance education is merely one varying component. The field-based model sees the convergence of previously disparate strands of teacher education - namely, ministries, colleges, donor-funded projects, decentralised ministry functions, teacher resource centres and schools.
The field-based model is outlined with reference to three sets of data:
- a literature review of teacher education in Anglophone sub-Saharan Africa from the last ten years
- case studies and reports commissioned from and/or supported by local researchers in Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Malawi (see Appendix A: Research Methodology);
- 'grey literature' provided by local researchers - e.g. project proposals, promotional literature, college prospectuses, course handbooks, evaluation reports, back-to-office project reports, etc.
The data reveals that decentralised systems of student support and assessment for school-based students are undoubtedly the weakest aspect of the field-based model, reflecting the findings of international research. Themes drawn from earlier research are applied in context, with research partners investigating evidence of, and strategic responses to, the following well-documented problems:
- political pressure to go to scale ahead of capacity to support students at the local level
- a strong transmission view of education, which underestimates the importance of student support;
- the difficulty of shifting from a tradition of centralised control and the tendency to underestimate the organisational demands of decentralised delivery, administration and support;
- the complexity of managing partnerships with geographically dispersed agents and the training demands of new support cadres.
Mattson, E. Field-Based Models of Primary Teacher Training. Case Studies of Student Support Systems from Sub-Saharan Africa. (2006) 114 pp. ISBN 1 86192 818 1