by Dr Betty Obura Ogange
COL Education Specialist: Teacher Education
This year’s theme for the World Teachers’ Day, Teachers at the heart of education recovery, is a reminder of the need for governments and other institutions responsible for teacher education to think about innovative teacher development and embrace it for a post-pandemic education recovery phase.
Since the start of COVID-19, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has worked with various partners towards restoring the role of teachers and teacher educators as key actors in rebuilding innovative and resilient futures in education and training. COL has drawn from its many years of experience in online course development, Open Educational Resources and Artificial Intelligence. It has also tapped into invaluable partnerships across the Commonwealth, to create quality learning experiences for pre- and in-service teachers.
In the past year, COL has worked with partner institutions to develop and offer free MOOCs, short courses and self-learning resources through the MOOCs for Development platform (also known as COL MOOCs), to support the ongoing growth and capacity building of teachers. The training content covers a range of areas such as technology-enabled learning (TEL), blended learning, cybersecurity, digital literacy, mobile learning with multimedia and online assessment, among others.
Working with its network of experts in ODL and TEL, COL has developed a number of policy briefs, guideline documents, research reports and analytics based on data from recent course offers, to support policy makers and other educators in prioritising teacher development needs, especially in disadvantaged contexts.
COL’s Parental Learning for Uninterrupted Schooling (PLUS) project particularly targets teachers and parents in nomadic communities found in the northern part of Ghana, the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya as well as marginalised communities in Rwanda.
Experience in this project has shown that parents and other stakeholders in these regions are willing to collaborate with teachers in supporting children’s learning, irrespective of their parents’ literacy level or access to technology.
The PLUS project particularly encourages parent–teacher collaboration as a means to improving teaching and learning outcomes in these communities. More policy guidance on technology and pedagogy options targeting low-income and disadvantaged regions is needed to improve teacher capacity and educational access in these communities.
COL has undertaken an analysis of pedagogic and technological options that can assist teachers in low income and disadvantaged regions to become more confident, active, creative, critical and social lifelong learners, especially with the help of MOOCs. Early findings point to the need to:
- Improve infrastructure, connectivity, and access to existing resources; Off-line solutions such as COL’s Aptus device can help in resource sharing within small communities;
- Develop resources in local languages to help align with local cultures, environments, experiences, teaching practices, and education systems;
- Devolve and delegate decision-making to lower local levels towards an adaptive, responsive and flexible organisational ethos, perhaps based on the principles of the ‘agile methodologies’;
- Encourage school-based projects that draw from the global MOOCs to develop local content that can be shared with other teachers; and
- Support local Communities of Practice.
As this year’s theme focuses on the support teachers need to fully contribute to the recovery process, it is evident that educational responses, if undifferentiated, would increase the disadvantage the schools in these areas and their teachers face. The teacher development responses should be targeted and calibrated for specific countries and regions, particularly communities at the margins of national, mainstream norms.
Happy World Teachers’ Day!