Teachers’ and Head-teachers' Continuous Professional Development: Key Data Analysis for Quality Education Achievement in Sub-Saharan Africa

Posted: 06 March 2024

By Astérie Nyirahabimana and Phumzile Magagula 

This blog was originally published on the IICBA UNESCO website. 

Blog image
Credit: KIX Africa 21

Across sub-Saharan Africa, countries are working to ensure quality in their education systems, measured by the level of achievement in students’ learning outcomes. Quality of education hinges on numerous factors, with teachers and school leaders emerging as the most important change agents. While teachers play a pivotal role in shaping educational outcomes, many lack the necessary training to ensure effective learning among children; hence, there is an urgent need to prioritize teacher professional development and proficient school leadership. Research clearly emphasizes the impact of teacher professional development on enhancing teaching and learning, while effective school leadership significantly contributes to elevating teachers’ professional growth at the institutional level (Hasha & Wadesango, 2020; Taylor et al., 2017; Nooruddin & Bhamani, 2019; Glewwe et al., 2011). 

The recent GPE KIX Africa 19 and KIX Africa 21 2nd Continental Symposium, held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from October 3rd to 5th, 2023, showcased methods and strategies for generating, analyzing, and utilizing education systems data to promote resilient, inclusive, and high-performing education systems in sub-Saharan Africa. The symposium brought together more than 280 education stakeholders from 40 African countries and featured more than 90 presentations on topics such as good practices in data production and analysis on teachers and students; education management information systems (EMIS) strengthening; and inclusive and equitable data collection methods in marginalized populations. 

We both participated in the symposium as researchers, presenters, and rapporteurs. We are currently involved in teacher professional development in Rwanda and education sector coordination through the federal government of Eswatini. Participants of the symposium recognized the indispensable nature of professional standards, competencies, and development opportunities for teachers and school leaders in our own countries and across Sub-Saharan Africa. Coinciding with World Teachers’ Day, the symposium highlighted recent African-led research and innovative experiences from Africa to enhance professional standards, teacher education, and working conditions for educators.  

As the education landscape in sub-Saharan Africa undergoes rapid changes, school leaders are tasked with creating supportive teaching and learning environments and investing in quality professional learning opportunities for teachers and school leaders from their induction periods onwards. Continuous professional development (CPD) for teachers and headteachers over their careers remains crucial, leveraging experience and reflective learning to enhance knowledge and skills. A school, in essence, functions as a learning community where leadership norms foster continuous learning, providing an environment conducive to the growth of both new and experienced teachers (VVOB Rwanda, 2023). 

Research consistently demonstrates the positive impact of teachers’ professional development on student performance and teaching practices. Effective CPD not only motivates educators to remain in their roles but also contributes to an overall positive school culture and continuous improvement (Uworwabayeho, A. et al., 2020). For CPD to be effective, it must engage and motivate educators, fostering a growth mindset that encourages the ongoing development of knowledge and skills (Germuth, 2018). 

Examples from Rwanda evidence the feasibility of continuous professional development (CPD) for teachers and school leaders. For years, the provision of CPD for Rwandan educators has been a collaborative effort by government, academic, and multinational organizations such as VVOB – education for development in partnership with the Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB), the National Examination and School Inspection Authority (NESA), and the University of Rwanda College of Education (UR-CE). The interventions in (head)teachers CPD have been prefaced by the national CPD framework establishment.  

These CPD programmes utilize the model of shared leadership: They collectively target school leaders with a Diploma course (CPD Diploma in Effective School Leadership); educational actors (school-based mentors) who also play a leadership role in the school; and sector and district officials who play a role in supporting school leaders (CPD Certificate in Educational Mentorship and Coaching). These programmes aim to improve the skills and competencies of educational leaders in schools and across different levels in the education system, with the objective to improve the quality of teaching, through addressing repetition, drop-out and equity gaps in student learning outcomes. These CPD programmes have been delivered in a face-to-face or in-person modality; but to reduce the cost of traditional in-person learning, an innovative e-learning component (blended delivery modality of the CPD programmes) is being implemented. 

In Eswatini, CPD is connected to data strengthening and management at the school level. It entails the training of school principals by the EMIS department of the Ministry of Education and Training on the new PIN-driven system called DHIS2 to ensure real time data capturing. This training is also available to one focal teacher per school.  There is also theThe National Education and Training Sector Policy 2018 and the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2022-2034 provide for In-service Education and Training (INSET) which aims at training principals and teachers on curriculum implementation, financial management, human resources, and instructional management. INSET mainly trains teachers on curriculum, content, and pedagogical mastery. Essentially, all those in management are empowered by INSET in different ways as per their need. Notably, these interventions are available to head teachers and teachers who are already in the field. 

The Guidance and Counseling Department in the Ministry enhances the capacity of teachers to ensure safe and secure learning environments through the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Framework. This framework covers life skills including psychosocial support, mental health, gender-based violence, etc., and targets both head teachers and teachers. This department in collaboration with INSET also trains newly appointed school principals on school development plans in line with the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Framework. 

There are some challenges regarding CPD though, such as the lack of resources, prioritization, and utilization of data for the improvement of programmes. Data collection and management is worthless if data are not disseminated timeously for policy makers to use while still relevant and current. There is also a paucity of qualified data analysts who can break down data to a clear form that is ready for policy makers to understand and use. Most policy makers are not specialist researchers and need assistance in interpretating data and comparing findings. 

Time constraints and resource allocation also inhibit the full potential of CPD. Educators face challenges in finding time for professional development amidst their busy schedules, while inadequate resources, including funding and access to training programs, hinder the effective implementation of CPD. Addressing these challenges necessitates schools to offer flexible learning opportunities and prioritize investment in staff development. 

African governments must prioritize increased funding for teachers’ and headteachers’ CPD, alongside establishing robust Teachers Information Management Systems (TIMS). This investment is crucial, as CPD is not just a professional obligation but a catalyst for educational excellence. Embracing CPD creates a culture of lifelong learning, innovation, and adaptability among educators, ensuring a more informed and resilient education system. 

The researchers and policy actors at the 2nd Continental KIX Symposium also realized that CPD cannot be improved at the national level without greater collaboration between governments, school leaders, teachers, and researchers. These symposium participants recognized the necessity of establishing forums at various administrative levels to share data on best practices, challenges, and strategies concerning teachers’ and headteachers’ CPD, ultimately improving education quality. In sub-Saharan Africa, where dynamic educational reforms and innovations are underway, data must play a central role in informing and driving these initiatives. Despite substantial research efforts, the effective utilization of research data by policymakers and implementers remains inadequate due to insufficient data management systems in many African countries. Enhancing data production, analysis, and utilization is a priority to fortify resilient, inclusive, and high-performing education systems in the region. 

References: 

Germuth, A. A. (2018). Professional Development that Changes Teaching and Improves Learning. Journal of Interdisciplinary Teacher Leadership, 1(3), 77–90. https://doi.org/10.46767/kfp.2016-0025 

Glewwe, P., Hanushek, E., Humpage, S., &Ravina, R. (2011). School resources and educational outcomes in developing countries: a review of the literature from 1990 to 2010. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 17554. (www.nber.org/papers/w17554.pdf). 

Hasha, R., & Wadesango, N. (2020). Exploring the influence of educators’ continuous professional development programmes in enhancing students’ achievement in South African schools. African Journal of Gender, Society and Development (Formerly Journal of Gender, Information and Development in Africa), 9(2). https://doi.org/10.31920/2634-3622/2020/9n2a7 

Nooruddin, S., & Bhamani, S. (2019). Engagement of School Leadership in Teachers’ Continuous Professional Development: A Case Study. Journal of Education and Educational Development, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.22555/joeed.v6i1.1549 

Taylor, J. A., Roth, K., Wilson, C. D., Stuhlsatz, M. A. M., & Tipton, E. (2017). The Effect of an Analysis-of-Practice, Videocase-Based, Teacher Professional Development Program on Elementary Students’ Science Achievement. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2016.1147628 

Uworwabayeho, A., Flink, I., Nyirahabimana, A., Peeraer, J., Muhire, I., Ntwali, G.A. (2020). Developing the capacity of education local leaders for sustaining professional learning communities in Rwanda.  Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities Open, 2(1), ep 100092