Teacher education in Sierra Leone must cope not only with the annual demand for new teachers but also with training for existing unqualified and untrained teachers, as well as providing continuous professional development (CPD) for over 37,000 teachers employed by the government. This has made open and distance learning (ODL) essential for teacher education in developing a quality teacher workforce in the country.
These sentiments emerged from a four-day stakeholder workshop on ODL design for teacher training organised by Sierra Leone’s Teaching Service Commission (TSC) with support from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
The high-level workshop, held from 19 – 22 September 2023, drew a total of 30 participants from various teacher training institutions as well as national institutions, including the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), Ministry of Technical and Higher Education and National Council for Technical and Vocational Awards.
The Secretary of the Sierra Leone TSC, Mr Sorie Turay, observed, “TSC Sierra Leone remains committed to equipping educators with the requisite skills and competencies to foster a robust distance learning environment. We are grateful for the support from COL towards this goal.”
Representatives from the TEC elaborated on the national ODL policy for tertiary institutions, emphasising the importance of adherence to quality and compliance standards. Participants engaged in interactive sessions as they examined the current status of ODL, existing courses, enrolment, staff capacities and the use of technology in teacher training, among other critical areas.
Dr Betty Ogange, COL’s Education Specialist: Teacher Education, said, “This workshop served as a pivotal platform, allowing stakeholder institutions to discuss the application of the recently developed national ODL policy for tertiary institutions to teacher education in the country.”
Based on the workshop outcomes, tentative guidelines have been drafted for ODL In-Service Education and Training (INSET) courses that lead to certification, as well as courses that have been proposed as credit-bearing for promotion and career advancement. In addition, a recently approved cabinet paper on a CPD-based mapping framework for in-service teacher training in Sierra Leone aims to encourage “efforts by partners such as COL to build the capacity of Teacher Training Institutions (TTIs) to combine ODL with face-to-face learning.”