Enhancing teachers capacity smase


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Enhancing teachers capacity smase

  1. 1. Enhancing Teachers’ Capacity Through In-Service Education And Training: A Reflection On Projects For Strengthening Mathematics And Science Education∗ Kisangi Albert†and Ateng’ Ogwel‡ Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa1 IntroductionThe current reform efforts in mathematics and science education recognize the crucial role that teachers play(Van Driel, Beijard and Verloop, 2001), and thus target them as curriculum innovators and implementersthrough In-service Education and Training (INSET). There is a growing consensus that improving students’learning depends on a teaching force with appropriate beliefs and attitudes towards teaching and learning;and who possess content and pedagogical knowledge quite distinct from the usual instructional practice inmost classrooms (Even, 1999; Zaslavsky and Leikin, 2004). While initial teacher training nurtures thesecharacteristics, it is insufficient to prepare teachers for the greater challenges of everyday teaching, where,time constraints and pressure from summative assessments overwhelm both newly qualified and experiencedteachers. Besides, in rare cases where there are innovative practices, these are individual initiatives rarelysupported by others due to lack of opportunities for sharing, efforts which consequently dampen with yearsof service. Whereas in-service teacher education complements initial teacher training, there is lack of adequateand appropriate opportunities for most practising teachers to enhance their skills and align their practice tothe reform visions in education (Britt, Irwin and Ritchie, 2001; Ottevanger, Macfarlane and Clegg, 2005).Moreover, professional development which focuses on practice alone without reflective lenses—in terms oftheoretical perspectives (Krainer, 1999; Even, 1999) runs the risk of reinforcing traditional instruction orpromoting practices misaligned with changing trends in education. In order to uphold a dynamic approachto teachers’ professional development, this paper reflects on initiatives in some African countries that seekto enhance teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge and improve students understanding and motivation,particularly in science and mathematics. The rationale for this reflection is to first, reiterate the continuedrelevance of the existing projects and thus motivate other countries to initiate similar initiatives; and secondly,to highlight possible areas for improving quality of classroom practices.2 Strengthening of Mathematics and Science Education Initiatives2.1 Background to the SMASE Projects in AfricaThe Jomtien declaration on Education for All (EFA) in 1990 marked a shift of Japan’s focus from ‘hardware’type of projects, for example the supply of school equipment and construction of school buildings, to softareas in basic education (Kuroda, 2005). Like most donor countries, her aid allocation to basic educationby the mid 1990s was generally low, probably due to inadequate visibility, little influence on the educationlandscape, and not being foreign exchange intensive (Lockheed et al, 1994). In addition, at the GeneralConference of The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in April 1996, Japanexpressed her interest in supporting education development in Africa (Kuroda, 2005). Moreover, during ∗ A Paper Presented During the 7th SMASSE-WECSA Annual Conference Held in Lusaka, Zambia † National Trainer, Biology Education ‡ National Trainer, Mathematics Education
  2. 2. the G8 Summit held in Kananaskis, Canada, in June 2002, Japan proposed the Basic Education for GrowthInitiative (BEGIN) with “the aim of effectively utilizing Japan’s educational experience in support of theeducational development of developing countries” (Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2004, p. 7).BEGIN recognized the need for assistance for improving the quality of education and identified assistancefor science and mathematics education, teacher training, school administration and management as some ofthe key areas. While discussing Japan’s potential in mathematics and science education in Africa, Nagao (2004) enu-merated Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Education to include Japan’s widespread dif-fusion of mathematics and science education for all; her long experience in planning and implementingcurriculum changes in mathematics and science under severe resource constraints; and the accumulatedknowledge and experience in material development and teaching methods, emphasizing observation andexperimentation. Besides, Japan has a history of in-service teacher training; experience of linking mathe-matics and science education to industrial applicability and enhanced employability; and a unique approachto reforming of instructional practices through lesson-study (Stigler and Hiebert, 1999). Within this background, the initiatives in Africa in which Japan plays a significant role, seek to strengthenmathematics and science education, and enhance learners’ ability through improved teachers’ content mas-tery and pedagogical skills. In addition, they seek to positively enhance both teachers and learners attitudestowards mathematics and sciences. These initiatives include Strengthening of Mathematics and Science inSecondary Education (SMASSE-Kenya; SMASSE-Niger, SMASSE-Malawi and the proposed SMASSE-Rwanda); Strengthening of Mathematics and Science Education (SMASE-Nigeria); Secondary Science andMathematics Teachers Project (SESEMAT-Uganda) and Strengthening of Mathematics, Science and Tech-nology Education (SMASTE-Zambia). In the next sections, we highlight some common features of theseprojects with other initiatives and recommendations of continuing professional development.2.2 General Characteristics of the ProjectsThe current initiatives that seek to enhance students’ ability in mathematics and science in some Africancountries are unique professional development opportunities. First, unlike other programs which are specificto particular disciplines, the SMASE initiatives simultaneously target mathematics and natural sciences forsecondary schools or general science in elementary schools. These projects are best suited for most Africancountries and developing countries which face severe resource constraints, since they focus on strengthen-ing education within the existing structures; emphasize the need for mobilization and prudent utilizationof local resources, and recognize the value for building consensus on educational issues. Secondly, theyinvolve generic pedagogical approaches which transcend all disciplines as well as subject-specific topics.Third, unlike most professional development programs within faculty or university departments, for exam-ple, Pedagogy and Subject-specific Methodology for Teachers (PFL) in Klagenfurt, Austria (Krainer, 1999);Kidumatica in Ben Gurion and Manor in Weizmann, Israel (Even, 1999; Fried and Amit, 2005) and TEAMSin University of Dar es Salaam (Ottevanger, Feiter, O-saki and Van de Akker, 2005), they are located outsideinstitutions of higher learning; are managed by qualified and experienced school teachers rather than univer-sity lecturers; and aim at sustainable and institutionalized in-service education and continuing professionaldevelopment. Despite these unique features, they have common principles with reform visions which advocate formore student-centered instruction(e.g., National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; National Re-search Council, 1996; Ottevanger, Macfarlane and Clegg, 2005) and involve elements of the constructivistand situated perspectives in education. For instance, they invariably use ASEI-PDSI– a paradigm shift to-wards student-centred learning that also emphasizes practical and contextual aspects of learning– a blendconstructivism in terms of inquiry learning and situated cognition perspective through emphasis on improvi-sation of resources (SMASSE Project, 2004). Like in the National Science Education Standards (NationalResearch Council, 1996), it is believed that “ASEI movement enables the pupils to develop an inquiry mind,develop the skill of making accurate observations, drawing conclusions, and holding discussions to enhancelearning and development of skills” (SMASSE Project, 2002, p. 70). 2
  3. 3. 3 Design and Organization of the Projects3.1 Overall Goals and Project PurposesThe SMASE projects have overall goals of upgrading students’ abilities in mathematics and sciences in sec-ondary/ high school (SMASSE-Kenya, SMASSE-Niger, SESEMAT and SMASSE-MALAWI) and primaryschools (SMASE-Nigeria). The assumptions are that these goals are achievable through improved perfor-mance in examinations, positive attitude and students’ participation during classroom instruction. On theother hand, SMASTE has three overall goals towards sustainable school-based Continuing Professional De-velopment (CPD) that recognizes teachers’ integrity; responsive lesson demonstrations in line with teachers’needs and diffusion of effects of the Project from pilot region to other regions within Zambia. In particular, the projects seek to strengthen quality of mathematics and science education (e.g., SMASSE-Kenya); improve teachers’ attitude towards mathematics and sciences; enhance pedagogical content knowl-edge in mathematics and sciences (SMASSE-Niger); and develop the ability of trainers to provide INSET(SMASE-Nigeria). The SMASTE project further aims at improving classroom teaching learning activitiesin the pilot region through lesson demonstrations. The progress towards these specific purposes are verifiedthrough teachers’ practice of ASEI-PDSI (SMASE-Niger); positive attitude amongst students (SMASE-Nigeria; SMASSE-Niger); students’ participation (SMASE-Nigeria; SMASSE-Niger); teachers’ improvedpedagogical content knowledge (SMASE-Nigeria); a list of indices based on modified Likert-scales includ-ing lesson observation, participant attitude and mastery of ICT mode of instruction (SMASE-Nigeria); andcomparison of classroom practice and perception of students, teachers and principals with the pre-CPD sit-uation (SMASTE). These goals reflect visions of reform in education which posit that students learn betterwhen teachers alter their beliefs and conceptions towards teaching and learning; increase opportunities forstudents to take charge of their learning; establish groups for professional networking; and base instructionon students’ understanding and conceptions (Britt, Irwin and Ritchie, 2001; Hoffstein, 2005; Krainer, 1999;Stigler and Hiebert, 1999). Similar goals have been addressed by other professional development initiatives, for example, the IN-STANT Project (Namibia) which sought to guide the educational and curriculum reforms, and enhance teach-ing methodologies among unqualified teachers (Ottevanger, Macfarlane and Clegg, 2005). It specifically setto assist the Ministry of Basic Education and Culture to design and implement new science and mathematicscurriculum in secondary schools in response to the post- independence needs in Namibia. Although SMASEinitiatives do not seek to reform mathematics and science curricula, curricula reorganization are likely toemerge from lesson planning to establish sequence of instruction. In addition, the Manor Project whichtargeted in-service teacher educators, like national and regional trainers in SMASE projects, was based onthe overall vision of “Tomorrow 98” of improving science and mathematics teaching and learning in Israel.Other visions included providing science (and mathematics) teachers with opportunities for continuous pro-fessional development; facilitating collegiality and collaboration among teachers of specific disciplines; andincorporating change process in professional development (Hoffstein, 2005). In particular, the Manor Pro-gram aimed at developing an understanding of existing conceptions of teaching and learning mathematics,development of leadership and mentoring skills in teacher education, and creation of professional referencegroups (Even, 1999). Networking and reflective practice evident in the foregoing goals, alongside inculcation of principles ofaction, reflection and autonomy were the focus in the PFL (Krainer, 1999). Krainer (1999) further outlinesbenefits of networking to include professional exchange of knowledge, making innovative work accessibleand promoting a culture of communication on educational issues. Besides networking amongst teachersduring INSET and lesson demonstrations, there are potential gains in regional networks through sharing ofexperiences and good practices. Similarly, Ottevanger, Feiter, O-saki and Van de Akker (2005) observedthat, one of the specific goals of the TEAMS project in Tanzania, a joint venture between University of Dares Salaam and three Dutch universities, was to enhance international exposure of staff through conferencesseminars and partnerships. That is, the concept of networking needs to be extended beyond teachers in aparticular country to regional networks, implying need for relevant and supporting policy structures. 3
  4. 4. 4 Project Inputs4.1 Policy IssuesReforms in education, including teacher education require informed policies that recognize the need forchange, appreciate possible challenges and set guidelines for effecting the changes in mathematics education(see for example Advisory Committe on Mathematics Education, 2002, 2005). Within the present SMASEinitiatives, the significance of mathematics, science and technology in stimulating socio-economic develop-ment is documented in most educational policies. The Kenya Education Sector Support Program (KESSP)in Kenya, for example, recognizes the need for sustainable professional development within constrained re-sources, and outlines other policy measures regarding funding of various education initiatives (Ministry ofEducation, Science and Technology, 2005). Similarly, success of development initiatives depends on com-mitment from the funding partners, adherence to memoranda of agreements and formulated policies, andpolitical will towards the values of the initiatives. The latter further depends on political stability–a majorchallenge in some conflict-ridden African countries, and thus to the expansion SMASE initiatives. Suchstability would guarantee identification and upholding of educational values and a shift in funding priorities,for instance from military and security issues to education and other critical service sectors of economy.4.2 Inputs from Implementing CountriesA common characteristic in the project designs is the clear definition of inputs by the SMASE-WECSA mem-ber countries and the Japanese government through JICA. The “recipient” countries provide office space;meet recurrent budget for INSET, and assign counterpart and administrative staff to the projects. The ratio-nale is to enhance rather than replace existing educational structures, therefore the appearance of strengthenin the SMASE initiatives. The counterpart personnel are qualified and experienced teachers and education officials deployed astrainers and coordinators. The merit is that assignment of staff whose salaries do not raise recurrent costsenhances ownership and sustainability of in-service education and training. In SMASE-Nigeria for exam-ple, the National and State Trainers are deployed on part-time basis, while Quality Assurance and Stan-dards Officers and District Trainers (SMASSE-Kenya), like Cluster Trainers (SMASTE-Zambia) performproject activities alongside their regular duties. Furthermore, in order ground professional development inclassrooms, assignment of experienced teachers ensures familiarity with targeted educational contexts andgrowth through peer mentoring, unlike if the programs were facilitated by university staff. This, however,does not contradict teacher education programs at the universities, as the criteria for selection is professionalqualification of at least a first degree in relevant field of education. These staff characteristics are similar to those in the Manor Project for example, as well as others withinthe broader Tomorrow 98 programmes in Israel, where participants were experienced and reputable teachers(Fried and Amit, 2005; Zaslavsky and Leikin, 2004), whose qualifications ranged from first university de-grees in mathematics or mathematics related disciplines, master’s holders and a Ph.D holder (Even, 1999).Other criteria for selection included experience in teaching mathematics in Grade 9 and above; agreement toconduct in-service training weekly; reputation as a successful teacher and reasonable spread of participantsacross the country. The characteristics of staff at the national and regional in-service centers within SMASE projects alsocreate opportunities for professional growth through peer mentoring, (also Advisory Committe on Mathemat-ics Education, 2002; Britt, Irwin and Ritchie, 2001); enhances their confidence in facilitation of workshopsand motivate them to be part of change agents in mathematics and science education (cf Even, 1999; Za-slavsky and Leikin, 2004). Such opportunities for on-the-job development run parallel to structured capacitydevelopment, an element of input from the Japanese Government.4.3 Inputs from the Japanese GovernmentThe Government of Japan, through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), provides equipment tofacilitate effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery quality INSET, and assign short-term and long-termexperts in the projects to provide technical assistance and linkage between JICA and the implementing coun- 4
  5. 5. tries. In addition, they provide opportunities for counterpart training in Japan and Third-Country Training inPhilippines, Malaysia and Kenya in order to enhance the capability and capacity of the trainers in providingquality INSET. The rationale for Third-Country Training programmes in the Philippines, Malaysia or Kenyais to bring together people with common history, challenges and similar resource endowments to share ex-periences and challenges, in order to ultimately develop home-grown solutions to the problems in educationin their respective countries—an element of ownership. Although distinct from the SMASE initiatives, theTEAMS project in Tanzania– a joint partnership between the Dutch government and University of Dar-es-Salaam similarly developed the capacity of staff through sponsorship of masters and doctoral studies as ameans of developing quality teacher education programmes (Ottevanger, Feiter, O-saki and Van de Akker,2005). The opportunities for capacity development of project staff and provision of equipments are signifi-cant in enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of the programmes, and minimize assignment of Japaneseexperts in the projects. This ultimately ensures that professional development of teachers becomes institu-tionalized, continuous and sustainable. However, possible challenges to capacity development include lackof assignment of the staff on relevant tasks—therefore reduced efficiency; little regard for internal capac-ity development through opportunities for sharing such knowledge with colleagues and teachers; and highrate staff-turn over. There is need, therefore, for the hosting countries to complement the opportunities forstaff development provided by the donor partner, improve conditions of service and develop policies thatrecognize the developed capacities. Moreover, in order to minimize high rate of staff turn-over, there isneed for policy frameworks on deployment, and more significantly, due recognition of higher educationalqualifications in the teaching service outside the universities.4.4 Project ActivitiesBroadly, the activities of the SMASE projects include baseline surveys and needs assessments; establishmentof systems of In-service Education and Training; and development of necessary materials for training andcurriculum for capacity development of trainers. They also include implementation of the programs andestablishment of support systems and sensitization of stakeholders. An overarching activity is monitoringand evaluation, both for the quality of INSET and impact of various training and workshops geared towardsthe overall goals of the projects. Baseline surveys are meant to establish existing situation and isolate factors and issues which maybe addressed within existing resource constraints and project time-frames. In addition, they are meant torespond to the weaknesses of top-down formulation of professional development programmes and enhancethe initiatives’ core values of relevance, ownership and sustainability. Alternatively, needs assessment inother professional development programs, Manor for example, are based on views on learning reflected inliterature (Britt, Irwin and Ritchie, 2001; Even, 1999). Although, both approaches to needs assessment havemerits, there is need for the SMASE initiatives to occasionally base the programs on current research and,thus, localize educational issues in line with global trends. As Even (1999) also argues, opportunities to reflect on activities in literature are significant in linkingtheory to practice with two overarching benefits—expanding theoretical knowledge and learning about realstudents in a situation relevant to teachers’ practices. In addition, existing research may also illuminatestudents’ learning difficulties in mathematics and science, and highlight probable approaches relevant tosustainable professional development. Furthermore, there is need to reflect on ASEI-PDSI whose emphasison ‘hands-on’ activities corresponds to the Standards in the past decades (National Council of Teachers ofMathematics, 1989; National Research Council, 1996) which, however, appear to be under review with theintroduction of Curriculum Focal Points in the US (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2006).This would further develop conception of bridge in ASEI-PDSI and enhance higher order thinking skills(HOTS) besides addressing the missing transition to tertiary education. To establish systems of INSET at national or regional levels, the SMASE projects develop and imple-ment criteria for recruitment of trainers in the respective levels; develop curricula, objectives, and materialsnecessary for quality INSET, and implement the programs. The need for national and regional infrastruc-ture for professional development was one of the recommendations in the UK, including the necessity foradequate funding and support (Advisory Committe on Mathematics Education, 2002). Other similar activ- 5
  6. 6. ities include adequate preparation, adequate resources and development of specific materials for planninglearning experiences (Advisory Committe on Mathematics Education, 2002; Even, 1999; Hoffstein, 2005),besides creation of professional reference groups. In SMASTE (Zambia)– a school-based continuous professional development similar to the Japaneselesson study, initial activities include review of existing situation of SPRINT-CPD, development of strategiesfor scaling up from the pilot to other regions, and identification of degree and time-frame for expansionfrom the Central Province to other regions. Similarly, development and utilization of materials necessary forlesson demonstrations, obtaining feedback from experiences of lesson demonstrations and improvement ofsubsequent lessons are other critical activities for the success of the project. Like the other SMASE projects,identification of counterparts for capacity development and development of training curricula are projectedactivities for enhancing quality of the SMASTE project programmes. Moreover, monitoring and evaluationof teachers’ practices during lesson demonstrations is crucial in sustaining gains from the project and gaugingits impact. Implementation of the programs is intended to directly link the inputs and projected goals, and is basedon isolated issues from the needs assessments and baseline surveys. Consequently, there are thematic cycleswith sessions aimed at addressing attitude change, lesson planning and hands-on activities, actualization andimpact in the classrooms (e.g. SMASSE, 2002). As already argued, possible improvements of the programs,especially within institutionalized professional development need to be based on evidence from research,incorporate more subject-specific pedagogical and content issues and enhance students’ potential for furthereducation. The merits of such approach were observed in Kidumatica, where an activity based on Bruner’sconcept of spiral curriculum was used to demonstrate coherence and progression (also Schmidt, Wang andMcKnight, 2005) in mathematics from middle school to high school content (Fried and Amit, 2005). In an attempt to incorporate other stakeholders in the solution of problems in mathematics and scienceeducation in the respective countries, there are management workshops for principals and other educationofficials. Other means of popularizing the projects are through sensitization and publication of newsletters.Moreover, monitoring and evaluation is critical in verifying whether the inputs and activities are aligned tothe outputs of quality INSET and impact in the classrooms. That is, feedback, genuine for that matter, areintended to provide evidence on areas that require improvement.4.5 Project OutputsOne of the long term outputs is to establish systems of regular and institutionalized INSET in recognition ofthe need for continuity from projects to programmes. It is worth noting that the inputs from staff deployment,capacity building and operations within existing systems, for example SMASTE, correlate directly with thisoutcome. The establishment of CEMASTEA in Kenya confirms the importance of cooperation betweenthe funding partners in realizing the goal of institutionalizing INSET. Similar recommendations for con-tinuing professional development in the UK included establishment of a National Center for Excellence inMathematics (NCETM) to coordinate various professional development programs in mathematics (AdvisoryCommitte on Mathematics Education, 2002, 2005). The system of institutionalized INSET is not limited to institutional structures, but includes enablingmathematics and science teachers to develop positive attitude towards teaching and learning; improve theirpedagogical skills, and upgrade content mastery in the respective disciplines. Unlike the existing situation inmost classrooms, there is a growing belief that innovative practices are those which promote inquiry-basedlearning where students take responsibility for their learning, and acquire problem-solving skills necessary inand out school (see National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; National Research Council, 1996).Thus, the student-centered pedagogy promoted in the SMASE projects, including utilization of low-cost andimprovized resources are critical means of addressing the overall goals of the projects Correspondingly, the Manor Project realized personal, professional and social development of the par-ticipants. According to Even (1999), elements of personal development included credits, expectation to bepart of leadership to improve mathematics education, desire for continuous learning and willingness to acceptchallenging leadership. On the other hand, learning how to plan, conduct and evaluate change initiatives;working with teachers; and an understanding that change in school mathematics is a slow and complicatedprocess were forms of professional development. Moreover, social development included teamwork, col- 6
  7. 7. legiality and collaborative work; learning to work with other people in the educational system; need forownership, planning, decision making and assignment of roles and sharing of responsibilities. In order to further improve teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, there are opportunities for teach-ers to act and reflect on their teaching through lesson actualization (SMASSE-Kenya) or lesson demonstra-tions (SMASTE). As indicated earlier, professional development require that teachers share their experi-ences within authentic classroom practices, as reflective practitioners through peer mentoring, autonomy andnetworking (Krainer, 1999). The concept of action research that underlies the SMASE projects further re-quires a complementary conception of theory and practice, where practitioners “build upon and interpret theirexperience-based knowledge using research-based knowledge; and examine theoretical knowledge acquiredfrom literature and discuss research in the light of practical knowledge” (Even, 1999, p. 12). Such ap-proach has been used in the Department of Mathematics Education in Hiroshima University, through weeklyseminars– shou-zemi– that brings together graduate students, university researchers and practicing teachersto reflect on literature in mathematics education. Research further indicates that meaningful changes in classroom practices are evolutionary, for examplethe Japanese lesson study (Shulman, 2006; Stigler and Hiebert, 1999). In an address to the Maths andScience Partnership (MSP) Workshop, Lee Shulman whose seminal work on teachers’ knowledge informedconception of pedagogy beyond mastery of content, observed a need for [P]edagogy for teacher education that combines the best features, on the one hand, of case method– where you’re dealing with the rich, growing archive of existing cases. And on the other end, our best ideas from lesson study, where you’re now setting teaching and learning objectives, jointly designing instruction to accomplish those goals, actively engaging in teaching to try out the design, seeing how it works, and bringing that back to the seminar or workshop in which you’re working on learning to teach. (Shulman, 2006)Another output is the establishment of supporting systems for INSET at different levels through the in-volvement of stakeholders in education. This uniquely sets SMASSE-like activities from others that vieweducation to only involve teachers and students. Similar efforts, for example in the UK through feasibilitystudy on the establishment of National Centre for Excellence in Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), rec-ognize the importance of sensitizing other players on the rationale of continuous professional development(Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, 2005). Furthermore, monitoring and evaluation reports on the impact and progress of the projects are neces-sary outcomes for the funding partners and improvement of the activities. The expansion to national phaseand incorporation of primary teachers training college tutors in SMASSE-Kenya better exemplifies the dy-namism of the project designs and activities. In order to strengthen the process of generating feedback, itwould be necessary for the SMASE projects to diversify from the current questionnaires structured to captureteachers’ self reports on a five-point Likert scale to more descriptive responses. Besides institutionalizationof in-service teacher education and training (e.g., CEMASTEA) imply increased public concerns with theactivities. Thus, there is also need to extend current reporting of project activities to include research publi-cations. There are implications in terms of enhancing staff capabilities in research skills and increasing oppor-tunities for teachers to share innovative practices with the international community, and broaden the scopeof consumption of SMASE activities hitherto limited to internal reports. Such case studies of lesson demon-strations would certainly promote teacher responsibility as part of professionalism, and enhance their psychicrewards (Lortie, 1975).5 ConclusionsMost African nations certainly experience shortage of qualified teachers, and thus require better infrastruc-ture of initial teacher training. However, the potential of improving teacher education lies in enhancing thequality of trained teachers through professional development, within authentic learning environments forteachers—the classrooms. Besides, improving access and equity in basic education remains an urgent con-cern for most countries, but improving the quality of students learning’ in mathematics and sciences maysufficiently address socio-economic and technological development. In particular, there is need for harness- 7
  8. 8. ing the synergies in education development, where policy issues are addressed at ministerial levels, whilequality of classroom practices are improved, for example, through the SMASE initiatives. The reflection on the design of projects within the SMASE-WECSA reveals that these projects are rele-vant and consistent with global trends in education; and are designed to address ownership and sustainabilityof teachers’ professional development. In addition, there is correspondence between inputs and outputs, andcomplementary contributions by the funding partners, and similarities with programs elsewhere. While thehosting countries provide staff, the Japanese government develops their capacity and provides equipmentswhich enhance their efficiency. The initiatives also empower the implementing countries to determine theircore priorities in education; minimize donor dependency through establishment of systems of professionaldevelopment, mobilization and prudent utilization of resource. Moreover, the bottom-up approach of needsassessment, the involvement of critical stakeholders and recognition of existing education structures ensurelocal relevance and motivate responsibility among the African states. Furthermore, the opportunities forgrowth of the trainers through continuous mentoring (see also Even, 1999; Zaslavsky and Leikin, 2004), ex-change of experiences and the improvement of teachers pedagogical content knowledge is a common outputof the projects. Whereas the designs of the projects capture aspects ownership and sustainability through assignment ofstaff in regular workforce, there is need for policy guidelines on structural systems on personnel to minimizerates of staff turn-over. In addition, critical challenges facing these initiatives include incessant political strifeand lack of clear policy guidelines, commitment and adherence to established policies on project implemen-tation. Without doubt, most African nations are under massive resource constraints, but the approach ofstrengthening education in the SMASE initiatives have more implications on attitude, responsibility and ac-countability than on resources– therefore professionalism in every sector of the society. That is, it is throughsustained efforts, and positive attitude, mobilization and optimal allocation of resources among competingactivities in the educational sector that the long term goal of enhancing students’ abilities can be realized. Furthermore, collaboration and networking in education is fast gaining currency as educators in dif-ferent countries seek to share experiences, challenges and solutions, for example, BAsic COmponent ofMathetics Education for Teachers (BACOMET) (Christiansen, Howson and Otte, 1986). There are vast op-portunities for the African region for learning from each other, as most countries face common challenges oflimited resources and enormous problems in education. Accordingly, the success of the current initiatives inAfrica in carving a niche in the international arena depends on how the member countries utilize the emer-gent opportunities through classroom demonstrations and actualization of innovative practices. A probableavenue is through building networks of collaboration, enhancing classroom-based research in which excel-lent and innovative experiences are accumulated, analyzed, documented and shared within the region and theinternational community. That is, the SMASE initiatives must sustain the current high profile, and maximizethe relative advantage they have in classroom-based professional development.ReferencesAdvisory Committe on Mathematics Education (2002). Continuing professional development for teachers. The Royal Society, London.Advisory Committe on Mathematics Education (2005). Ensuring high quality, localised infrastructure for continuing professional development of teachers of mathematics. The Royal Society, London.Christiansen, B., Howson, A. G. & Otte, M. (Eds.). (1986). Perspectives on mathematics education. Dor- drecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.Britt, M. S., Irwin, K. C. & Ritchie, G. (2001). Professional conversations and professional growth. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 4(1), 29–43.Even, R. (1999). The development of teacher leaders and inservice teacher educators. Journal of Mathemat- ics Teacher Education, 2(1), 3–24.Fried, M. & Amit, M. (2005). Mathematics teacher education around the world–a spiral task as a model for inservice teacher education. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 8(5), 419–436.Hoffstein, A. (2005). Chemistry teachers’ professional development for the implementation of new content and pedagogical standards. Chemical Education International, 6(1). 8
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