Sierra Leone Improving Girls’ Learning Outcomes

The lack of female teachers in Sierra Leone makes it hard for girls to aspire to a career of their own and limits girls’ participation in education. Only 27% of girls are still enrolled in school by secondary level. The Improving Girls’ Learning Outcomes project aims to break the cycle by improving learning outcomes for girls, particularly those in upper primary/ lower secondary classes, and creating new role models for girls.

The project brings together a range of partners, led by Plan UK, each tackling one of the factors which make it so difficult for girls to attend and succeed in school in Sierra Leone. The Open University is focusing on bringing more young women into the teaching profession, offering the current generation a chance at a career and inspiring the next generation.

The Open University is supporting 550 girls of senior secondary age and above in a scheme which prepares them for entry into teacher training, through a combination of self-supported study and experience in a primary school.

Preparation for formal teacher training takes two approaches:

  • Learning Assistant placements in local primary schools, supported by advisors who are qualified teachers at the school. The OU has developed an interactive handbook to accompany these placements.
  • Alongside their classroom experience, The Open University provides the young women with self-study materials in Maths and English, specifically adapted to support preparation for the  entrance exam for Teacher Training Colleges. The project also employs  tutors to meet weekly with the learning assistants, in small tutor groups.

The project is made possible by UK aid funding through the Girls Education Challenge Programme. Local partners include international and national NGOs and a teacher training college, through which the project reaches over 180 rural primary schools.

'Developing and modelling collaborative creation of local OER in Teacher Education Institutions in Ghana’ 2015-2017

Foso College, Holy Child College, Komenda College and OLA College, with the Open University UK ( Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation)

Since 2013 a caucus of teacher educators and students have been involved in TESSA OER use at four Colleges of Education in Ghana.  TESSA Clubs (student run) have been established at each college and  senior management have endorsed use of the TESSA OER in various aspects of the diploma programme.  However extensive TESSA use has been limited by poor internet connectivity and limited off line access.  

In this current  project we are harnessing the  evident motivation and enthusiasm for the TESSA OER within these established communities of teacher educators and students and supporting movement  into the next stage  - OER production,  whilst also continuing to support and guide activity to embed the original TESSA OER into diploma modules across the colleges.  College tutors closely involved in the project (10 at each college)  will access TESSA OER through tablet pcs provided by the project and the project will explore how the tablet pc influences use and adaptation of the TESSA OER.  Previous work in Nigeria indicates that tablet pcs:

- offer easy access to the TESSA OER, allowing users to frequently re-visit units and search across units to find individual activities and case studies which are of relevance to their teaching plans. 

- allow critical instances of practice to be recorded  to support dialogue between teacher educators and student teachers about aspects of practice; what is effective and where improvements can be made and the reasons for these.        

- enable the capture of these dialogic interactions between teacher educators and student teachers.

In this project we extend the use of the tablets to support the creation of new OER.

The project explores  how teacher educators and student teachers engage with TESSA OER and the consequences of this engagement for their evolving pedagogic practice. Within this overall enquiry a number of sub-questions are explored:

- what are the processes and enabling conditions which support these teacher educators and their students in actively engaging with creation and adaptation of OER at a local level to meet immediate needs?

- what  skills are needed to engage in these activities?

- how do institutional and wider systemic factors influence engagement in these activities? 

- how does mobile technology (tablet pcs)  mediate engagement with OER including adaptation and creation of new OER? 

- what is the impact of changed teacher educator practice on student teachers’ developing professional understandings and competence?

The research methodology is a qualitative case study of OER adaptation with teacher educators (tutors) and trainee teachers (students) at each college. Data sources include observations by the project team of tutors’ teaching, digital information from the tablet pcs (new OER, adapted OER and audio / image files) and interview transcripts (from interviews with tutors and students).  Analysis will focus on patterns and commonalities across the colleges.. During visits to the colleges the core project team  from the Open University ( Freda Wolfenden, Prof Patricia Murphy and Fiona Henry) will engage in an iterative research process sharing analyses with the project community (college principals and tutors) in discussion that informs the evolution of collective pedagogic practice and further data collection. .

Through internal department activities in each college project tutors will be encouraged to continue to share their experiences and advocacy for TESSA, and colleges will be encouraged to continue to support the TESSA Clubs.

Malawi Access Into Teaching Scholarships (MATS)

A chronic shortage of teachers in Malawi means many students don’t get the support they need. Without female focused support and role models in schools, many girls miss the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and the number of girls going into teaching never improves. The Malawi Access into Teaching Scholarship project offers young women in rural areas of Malawi a second chance at a teaching career.

Many girls in Malawi have completed secondary school, but have not received enough support to achieve the grades needed for a teacher education programme. This pathway into teaching offers girls two methods of support:

  • A one year upgrade course via distance learning prepares the girls to retake their secondary school leaving exams and prepare for application to teacher training. Distance learning means girls can stay with their families and gives people in rural areas the same access.
  • Girls also gain first hand classroom experience through a Teaching Assistant placement in a local primary school supported by a mentor from the school’s teaching staff and accompanied by a School Experience handbook.

Building on a pilot of 1,000 study places funded by the Scottish Government Development Office, close to 2000 young women of secondary school leaving age are currently studying as KGIS Scholars. In classroom placements in their own communities, these women will provide mentoring and inspiration to an estimated 160,000 girls over the life of the project.

Part of Keeping Girls in School, a UK aid programme supporting various projects in Malawi, the project is delivered in partnership with a local NGO, Forum for African Women Educationalist (FAWEMA), through which the project reaches around 400 rural primary schools. The project is endorsed by the Malawi Government.