Teacher deployment in basic education in Africa
Contributed by Léonie Marin, Guillaume Husson, Beifith Kouak Tiyab, Koffi Segniagbeto and Patrick Nkengne, IIEP Pôle de Dakar
Within the context of the Education 2030 Agenda, one of the targets for the sustainable development goals is to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030". It is therefore essential that teacher deployment is part of a dynamic of equity, effectiveness and efficiency so that no child, regardless of their geographical location or which school they attend, is deprived of learning opportunities.
Experience sharing between countries to raise key issues
Given the importance of teacher deployment, UNESCO's International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) Pôle de Dakar organized two regional workshops to share experiences on teacher deployment practices. The first took place in July 2016 in Dakar for West Africa and, building on the success of the first workshop, a second in May 2017, in Nairobi, Kenya for Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.
Participants of the workshops raised a number of issues related to the question: How can more effective teacher deployment strategies be put in place. To answer this question, several avenues were explored. Strategies need to consider the standards, tools, and human resources associated with the different contexts and experiences that have worked well. By sharing reflections and experiences, the needs of the education system can be better met. In essence, studying the involvement and the role of the various stakeholders, as well as teacher motivations, enables a better understanding of their conditions and commitments so that appropriate solutions can be provided, ensuring a re-balancing of staff allocation by taking into account qualitative aspects. Observing the communication mechanisms between the different administrative levels and other stakeholders helps to better reflect on how information is circulated as a means of increasing the effectiveness of procedures at all levels.
During the plenary sessions with contributions from Southern, Central and Eastern Africa as well as from West Africa, it appears that, as far as location is concerned, disparities in terms of resources in teacher allocation are more prominent in rural areas. One important question was raised: how can we better achieve equity? This question is also highlighted in the Education 2030 Framework for Action "[…] the equity gap in education is exacerbated by the shortage and uneven distribution of professionally trained teachers, especially in disadvantaged areas". Some countries systematically deploy new teachers in rural areas whereas others offer special incentives. Reflecting on teacher retention in rural areas is vital.
One of the factors for success is to define a regulatory framework with which everyone complies. Ensuring compliance with standards and regulations is a problem for which the solution requires, inter alia, the development of recognition mechanisms to allow for career progression and improved status for the teaching profession. Decentralisation is one of the solutions put forward to create opportunities for change in the institutional development of education systems. However, for decentralisation to work, effective human, material and financial capacities must already exist.
Therefore, institutional capacities must be strengthened and standardisation processes be developed to allow for changes in teacher management and so that countries adapt as quickly as possible to rapidly evolving education environments.
Analysing the coherence of teacher numbers in schools
In a quantitative analysis, indicators are essential, such as indicator number 11 of the strategic plan 2015-2020 of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). This indicator aims to achieve an equitable allocation of teachers by measuring the relationship (R2) between the number of teachers and the number of pupils per school in each partner country. The closer the indicator is to 1 the more coherent the allocation of teachers according to number of pupils is. In 2015, only 21 out of 61 GPE partner countries could provide data for that indicator, and six countries met the target set (0.80 or above). The aim is to achieve 38% of partner countries meeting the target in 2018, and 48% by 2020. To achieve this goal it is necessary to improve data availability, share good practices between countries, promote a global approach to teacher issues - including deployment - and raise political awareness about these matters. In the same vein, in its medium-term strategy 2018-2021, the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) attaches great importance to the issues of teacher management and the quality of teaching, including in difficult areas.
Examples of technical tools to streamline teacher deployment practices
Following an in-depth analysis of the teacher question, effective technical tools can be developed to meet the education system's needs in terms teacher deployment. Information about teachers exists at several levels within the education system (planning, human resources, and payroll department). It may be the case that a database is out of touch with the reality on the ground. However, what is usually noticeable is a lack of coherence between the various databases. The use of an integrated database about teachers is seen as the way ahead to resolve this coherence problem. For example, Senegal's experience with the technical management tool entitled Management Intégré des Ressources Axé sur une Dotation Rationnelle (MIRADOR) and Rwanda's experience with the Teacher Management Information System (TMIS) prompted other participants to consider developing similar tools in their own countries. Even though they have room for improvement, these tools are already making a significant contribution.
Identifying the best mechanism according to the local context
Teacher deployment should become as streamlined as possible through diagnosis on teacher utilisation, analysis of the challenges education systems face, and study of the various indicators and models (centralised, decentralised, etc.) to name but a few. Furthermore, in order to reflect on a better balance in terms of deployment of teachers, qualitative and quantitative approaches must be combined to ensure an overall view of the subject. It is also through sharing information on teacher management, and on good and bad practices, that countries can identify the mechanisms that are most suitable for their own contexts, with the goal of achieving better results within the framework of a quality education for all.