Equipping Lesotho's primary school teachers for educating and motivating rural children

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: Social and Political Science

Abstract

The Brunel University-led research project on "Education systems, aspiration and learning in remote rural settings" found that primary school children in rural communities in Lesotho, India and Laos tend to see their education as being useful only in relation to formal sector careers (teacher, nurse, policeman, soldier etc). Such careers can be achieved by only a minority of learners and, as a consequence, many young people are left disillusioned, and disengage from schooling. In Lesotho, this is despite a new integrated curriculum that explicitly seeks to equip children with knowledge and skills for alternative futures. Part of the problem is that teachers in rural schools also see education as preparation for a formal sector career, and have not themselves fully embraced the integrated curriculum. Relatively few teachers have received any training in the new curriculum and it is not currently introduced in initial teacher education at Lesotho College of Education (LCE). Moreover, issues of teaching in specifically rural contexts, or the needs of rural children, have little prominence either in the new curriculum itself, or in teacher education.

The proposed project will seek to equip Lesotho's primary school teachers better for engaging rural children with education. It will aim to produce a school experience that connects more meaningfully with rural children's lives and prepares them for success in a future life that might not be in a formal sector job. Rural children will as a consequence engage more actively with schooling.

There are four strands to the approach:

1. TO INTRODUCE PREPARATION FOR RURAL TEACHERS INTO THE DIPLOMA IN EDUCATION PRIMARY AT LCE
We will work with students in the term preceding their year-long teaching practice to teach them action research methods and design action research projects to undertake during their teaching practice. Supervised by nearby graduate teachers, the students will assess the needs of rural children, institute change in their schools and generate valuable knowledge that will feed into classroom-based teacher education and policy-focused and academic publications.

2. TO INTRODUCE REFLECTION ON RURAL CONTEXTS TO PROGRAMMES FOR IN-SERVICE TEACHERS
LCE runs a Distance Teacher Education Programme for those teaching in primary schools without a qualification; the National University of Lesotho (NUL) runs a Bachelor of Education programme for teachers who have completed a Diploma in Education and wish to progress their careers. We will work with those who run these programmes to build in sessions that encourage the teachers to reflect on the challenges that rural settings pose to learners, to explore ways of making schooling more meaningful to rural children.

3. TO DEVELOP IN-SERVICE TRAINING WORKSHOPS FOR RURAL TEACHERS
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has historically been largely a responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), particularly the Inspectorate and National Curriculum Development Centre. There are plans that in future the Inspectorate should identify the need for CPD but this should be delivered by LCE and NUL. We will work with the MOET, LCE and NUL to design and trial workshops for those already teaching in rural schools. These might focus on outreach with communities as well as working with learners in school.

4. TO WORK TO ENSURE THAT GOVERNMENT POLICY AND FRAMEWORKS FOR TEACHER EDUCATION PAY ATTENTION TO THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN IN RURAL CONTEXTS
A new Comprehensive Teacher Policy has been drafted which covers teacher education, and a new competency-based framework model for training teachers is under discussion. These documents are being produced with input from multiple stakeholders. We will bring together representatives of MOET, LCE and NUL to ensure that they give appropriate attention to the specific needs of rural children, to ensure that education is meaningful and valuable to children in more remote areas.

Planned Impact

The project will benefit teacher educators, teachers in rural schools, policy makers and ultimately young people growing up in rural Lesotho. Some of these benefits will be arise during the two years of the project, including changes to teacher education practices and policy, while others (notably benefits for young people themselves) will begin in the short term but mainly be felt in future years. The project will these benefits in the following ways (drawing on the Impact Initiative's Wheel of Impact):

1. CHANGING WAYS OF THINKING / RAISING AWARENESS AMONG POLICY MAKERS, TEACHER EDUCATORS, TRAINEE TEACHERS, CURRENT TEACHERS AND ULTIMATELY MEMBERS OF RURAL COMMUNITIES INCLUDING CHILDREN
A key aim of the project is to communicate the findings of the RLO research project on 'Education systems, aspiration and learning in remote rural settings' to the above groups and to encourage them to consider the implications. The research found that in rural communities and among teachers there is a widespread - if often unspoken - understanding that the main aim of schooling is to prepare children for futures as formal sector workers (most notably teachers, nurses, soldiers and police officers). The project aims to change this way of thinking, and to encourage policy makers and teacher educators to recognise the importance of considering rural contexts in their engagement with teachers. If teachers begin to think differently about the potential ways for education to benefit children in rural environments, this will increase the likelihood that children and community members will do so too.

2. IMPACTS ON THE PRACTICE OF TEACHER EDUCATION
The project will develop and pilot interventions in initial teacher education, in professional qualifying courses for in-service teachers, and in short Continuing Professional Development courses, with the aim of securing the inclusion of consideration of rural contexts in all forms of teacher education.

3. IMPACTS ON POLICY FOR TEACHER EDUCATION
The project team will work with the Ministry of Education and Training's Teaching Services Department and other stakeholders involved in developing the new Comprehensive Teacher Policy and framework for teacher education in order to ensure that rural contexts are given consideration.

4. BUILDING CAPACITY OF TEACHER EDUCATORS
The project team will work with teacher educators at the National University of Lesotho and Lesotho College of Education to find new ways of encouraging student teachers to reflect on and respond to the needs of rural children, including through action research projects.

5. BUILDING CAPACITY OF TRAINEE PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS
The team will prepare trainee teachers to use action research and other measures to better understand and respond to the needs of rural school children. Teachers will thereby be better equipped to work with children in rural contexts.

6. BUILDING CAPACITY OF MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING OFFICIALS TO MAKE USE OF RESEARCH
The team will work with representatives of various parts of the MOET, including in particular the Teaching Services Department, to develop training workshops, guidelines and policy in ways that draw on the RLO research project.

7. BUILDING AND STRENGTHENING NETWORKS
The project will bring together a number of stakeholders from Lesotho's education sector to work on enhancing teacher education.

Publications

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