Teacher quality, motivation deserves urgent attention

A teacher is seen during a class session in Uganda. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

Teachers are the backbone of high-quality public education and strengthening the teacher workforce can lay the foundation for the fruitful investments in other areas of public education

In line with 2019 Uganda National Teacher Policy (NTP) approved by Cabinet, with an aim of standardization of the teaching profession, teacher quality is the single most important feature for the schools that boost student achievements.  It is also the second most important determinant of student learning after family background.

Teachers are the backbone of high-quality public education and strengthening the teacher workforce can lay the foundation for the fruitful investments in other areas of public education. 

However, though the policy can accomplish much in the educational system like streamline management of pre-service and in service teachers and retention, its impact remains insufficient. It rarely addresses the low teacher pay, incentives, selection criteria and procedures, as well as length in the time of training for the teachers.

The teacher low pay not only hinders the attraction of new teachers to the field, but also makes it hard to retain those in the system. Very often, teachers need to complement their income, which results in low availability for lesson preparation and focus on teaching.

In addition to the lockdown induced by Covid-19 pandemic, a good number of teachers quit the profession citing better pay in the businesses they ventured into.

On average, a primary teacher in Uganda is paid a salary of Shs467,000. compared to a Kenyan primary teacher that earns Ksh 25692 which is equivalent to Shs790,000, almost double that of Ugandan teachers.

The education ministry should put up effective mechanisms to motivate teachers. Incentives like facilitating their transport, for example the case for Government giving out bicycles to Local Councilors, can be also translated for teachers as well in order to reduce on the transport costs and expenditures.

The share of the Education budget should be increased from the current to 20%. This will cater for loan scheme initiatives, scholarship opportunities and funding for quality teacher recruitment. Higher quality candidates may be more inclined to become teachers if compensation and working conditions are adequate and if there are attractive career opportunities for them to develop as professionals.

These will stimulate teachers to give their best in the classroom and

solve the shortage of teachers in Uganda. Given that our pupil-teacher ratio stands at 53:1 according to 2019 UNESCO reports. This ratio is high compared to the UN recommended ratio of 40:1 at primary level.

For the teachers already in service, admission for trainings should be as a result of the deficit and it should be individually targeted as opposed to compulsory admission into the training. This can be achieved through performance appraisal to determine teachers` deficit to support the areas that require further training development. This will eliminate the assumption that all teachers need the qualification and might only require refresher courses since the curriculum changed. In doing so, it will save the time and scarce resources. Thus, the approach should be flexible and modular where teachers choose what and how they want to learn.

 The NTP has a lengthy training, for instance it requires teachers who were trained as nursery school teachers to first acquire diplomas to match the equivalent of an A-level which will allow them entry into a university degree programme in Uganda. This suggests that it may take a teacher several years to upgrade. This makes the process to obtain degrees too lengthy, costly and stressful, which might force some of them to leave the profession all together.

Over the long run, the best way to strengthen teacher quality will be to attract capable, intrinsically motivated people into the profession, a thing the NTP missed.  For the new entrants, let the selection start with  admitting quality as opposed to admitting candidates who chose an education degree as a last choice. In Uganda, most of the youth who go into teaching are not among the highest performers. The failure of education providers to select the right candidates with best competencies in numeracy and literacy will keep the quantity not quality.

Shangai, China, is a good example of this type of system. The quality of teaching is directly controlled by the government through policies to match teachers` skills to student needs. The government involvement in controlling the quality of teaching in Shanghai is characterized by attracting the best into the teaching profession. This is through targeted scholarship programs, having a strong system to assign teachers and principals to the schools where they are most needed. This is in addition to having a school accountability mechanism to intervene in low-performing schools.

Roline Tusiime  

Resident Research Associate at Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies


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