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"Countries needing the most new teachers also currently have the least-qualified teachers." - UNESCO, 2006.

Developing countries in the Commonwealth are firmly committed to the attainment of the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals by 2015, particularly the goal of providing access to primary education to all children. Attaining these goals depends in large part on the availability of an adequate supply of well trained and highly motivated teachers.

Although significant levels of success have been recorded in expanding school enrolments and enhancing teacher supply in recent years, many challenges need to be addressed. See “Meeting the Growing Demand for Teacher Education” for a discussion of these challenges.

COL’s focus: ODL for teacher training

Recognising that shortfalls in teacher supply cannot be addressed through conventional face-to-face training, almost all Commonwealth countries are investing in open and distance learning (ODL) for teacher training.

COL is playing an important role by helping developing countries to build the capacity of their teacher training systems so that they adequately address the shortfalls in teacher supply and also enhance teachers’ quality, performance and effectiveness. Working in partnership with teacher training institutions, governments and other international agencies, COL is currently spearheading several major teacher education initiatives:

  • OERs for English Language Teaching (Pan-Commonwealth): COL is working in partnership with educational institutions throughout the Commonwealth to develop open educational resources (OERs) in multimedia and traditional text formats to support school-based training for teachers working in the upper basic education sector. These resources will be freely available for use and adaptation. See: the Open Resources for English Language Teaching (ORELT) Portal.
  • Green Teacher programme (India): Green Teacher is a one-year Diploma in Environmental Education for teachers and educators developed by India’s Centre for Environment Education (CEE) in partnership with COL. Offered through distance mode, this continuing learning course teaches in-service teachers how to increase learning about environmental concerns and issues in the classroom and engages their students in environmental education activities.
  • Child-Friendly Schools (10 Commonwealth countries): Through a two-year partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), COL is promoting quality in education through the “Child-Friendly Schools” model. Working with partner institutions and Ministries of Education in 10 countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Trinidad & Tobago and Zambia – COL is developing “train the trainer” workshops that introduce Child-Friendly Schools to teacher training institutions and teacher resource centres.
  • Dissemination of TESSA OERs (Uganda and Zambia): Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) is a consortium of 18 organisations, including COL, that are collaborating to develop extensive multilingual open education resources (OERs) for teacher training. COL and TESSA have formed an additional partnership to promote the dissemination and use of TESSA resources by primary school teachers and teacher educators in Uganda and Zambia, to ensure the effective use of these teacher training resources.
  • Strengthening partnerships: In July 2009, COL hosted a meeting to further co-operation on teacher education initiatives. Representatives from COL, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the TESSA consortium, UNESCO, UNICEF, the West African Consortium for Teacher Education Development (WACTED) and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation discussed how to achieve greater synergy and increased impact. The group identified two areas for potential future collaboration: improving connectivity and management of Teacher Resource Centres, and increasing access to ODL materials and quality assurance tools. (See below, "Collaboration with other international organisations" for the outcome/commitment statement.
  • Training for head teachers and principals (West Africa): COL is working with Memorial University (Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada) to provide training to improve the professional skills and effectiveness of head teachers and principals in the Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Using print, audio and video training materials provided, these educators will, in turn, train other head teachers and principals in their countries.
  • Quality assurance (India, Jamaica, Nigeria): COL collaborated with the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in India and 18 teacher training institutions in the Commonwealth to develop a Quality Assurance Toolkit for Teacher Education. The Toolkit helps teacher training institutions conduct internal assessments and enhance the quality of their programmes. It has been disseminated through workshops in Jamaica, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, and is freely available for download.

The success of the Universal Primary Education campaign has created an urgent need for more teachers – many more teachers, in some countries. Fresh new thinking and solutions are required. The focus of teacher training must shift to providing recurrent in-service programmes of professional learning. COL is working to help teacher education institutions offer quality ODL programmes that will enable teachers to upgrade their skills and qualifications. Increasing the number and quality of teachers is an essential element in the quest to achieve Universal Primary Education by 2015.


Collaboration with other international organisations

In July 2009, the Commonwealth of Learning hosted a meeting to further co-operation on teacher education initiatives. The outcome statement appears below and opening remarks, delivered by COL’s President, Sir John Daniel, are available through the link on the right.

Commitment statement on teacher education

Representatives from the Commonwealth of Learning, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the TESSA consortium, UNESCO, UNICEF, the WACTED consortium and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation met in Vancouver on the 28th and 29th July 2009.

The objectives of the meeting were:

1. To enhance understanding of each others’ work in teacher education,
2. To identify strategies for scaling up teacher education as an integral part of providing quality Education for All, and
3. To explore areas of future collaboration.

The group comprised partners who had existing collaborations in teacher education. Several partners are also represented other networks operating in the field of teacher education. An important next step will be to communicate the outcome of the meeting to partners that were not present, in particular the Task Force on “Teachers for EFA”.

The group agreed that there was a need for strong partnerships to achieve greater synergy and increased impact. The group also agreed that partners had different comparative advantages* that strengthened the case for working together to scale up teacher education.

In addition to existing activities, the group identified two areas for potential future collaboration.

1. Teacher Resource Centres. The group felt that a new approach to Teacher Resource Centres would offer a possible multiplier for several agencies. In particular, TRCs with improved technology could increase access to CFS materials, TESSA materials and OERs. TRCs could also support the development of open schooling, be more proactive and flexible in addressing teachers’ professional development needs and improving management performance. The group identified two key challenges which will need to be addressed: improving connectivity and the management of TRCs.

2. ODL materials and quality assurance systems. The group felt that there was a need to scale up access to quality assurance toolkits and teacher education materials that several partners had developed. These include capacity development and quality assurance materials, OERs and management training materials. The group identified three key challenges: raising awareness, obtaining long term funding, and integrating a culture of quality assurance into national and institutional policies, processes and practices.

The group agreed that the next steps would be:

1. Seek endorsement for and feedback on the above proposals within participating organisations,

2. Disseminate the commitment statement to other potential partners, inviting them to contribute to the achievement of the goals as appropriate, and

3. Establish a Base Camp [electronic network] for coordinating the next steps.

* For example, it was agreed that the comparative advantages of UNESCO includes its access to data and analysis through UIS, IIEP and the GMR. For UNICEF, comparative advantages include its country level expertise in a wide range of countries. For COL, its advantages include its expertise in ODL. For ComSec, its advantages include its government convening power. For TESSA, the advantages include its expertise and experience of large scale delivery of open learning programmes and OERs. For WACTED, its advantages include its in-depth local knowledge as a South-South consortium. For the Hewlett Foundation, the advantages include its expertise in OERs and its funding capability.