West and Central Africa: The great challenge of access to quality education in the face of demographic growth

There is a growing need for teacher training in West and Central African countries. In Niger, the government has taken a series of measures to improve the quality of education.

July 07, 2022 by Hamidou Boukary, GPE KIX, and Maïmouna Sissoko Touré, KIX Africa 21
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4 minutes read
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Teacher and students trace letters in the air with their fingers at Couronne Nord 1 Primary School in Niamey, Niger. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Teacher and students trace letters in the air with their fingers at Couronne Nord 1 Primary School in Niamey, Niger.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

The ever-growing need for trained teachers, brought on by strong population growth in most West and Central African countries, makes the issue of initial and continuous teacher training a top priority.

One of the justifications for this prioritization is the following observation made by the Programme d’analyse des systèmes éducatifs [analysis of education systems program] (PASEC) on the quality of learning:

“It should be noted that more than half of students (52.1%) are below the ‘sufficient’ competency threshold for reading and are therefore experiencing learning difficulty. As for math, more than 60% of late primary students are below the ‘sufficient’ competency threshold.”

PASEC 2019

Toward promoting a quality assurance culture

Based on the findings of the PASEC 2019 survey as well as the KIX Africa 21 hub’s study on regional priorities and framework for discussion, there are two core challenges: first, the inadequacy and inefficiency of the training offerings and content and, second, the under-qualification of student teacher candidates for the training schools.

Consequently, with the stakes being so high, the countries cannot do without applicable reforms and innovations. One of these reforms is to develop a permanent quality assurance culture for training offerings.

Today, all the countries have virtually stopped recruiting teachers without initial training, at all levels. However, in some cases, especially in rural areas, there are still so-called “community teachers” or “parent teachers” who teach and are paid primarily by parents and the community. Student teachers who are better prepared academically are now priority recruits.

Reforms are underway here and there to raise the recruitment level, particularly for primary school teachers, from the BEPC (lower secondary school diploma) to the Baccalauréat (upper secondary school diploma) and even to the Licence (university level).

These reforms are leading to the reorganization of teacher training structures and implementation of in-service teacher training strategies and policies.

In the various countries, these reforms could not be implemented earlier because of their huge impact of increasing the civil service wage bill.

Niger’s situation

Niger’s situation was chosen because, in June 2021, the country shared its instructive experience of reforming its teacher training policy, at a round table organized by the KIX Africa 21 hub on quality assurance for the initial training of basic education teachers in sub-Saharan African countries.

Together with the four other countries around the table (Burkina Faso, Djibouti, the DRC and Kenya), the Director of Initial and Continuous Teacher Training at the Ministry of Primary Education, Literacy, Promotion of National Languages and Civic Education, Zara Bakingué, essentially gave the following account (video):

In Niger, for example, and after the PASEC 2014 survey, which extensively called into question the performance of Nigerien teachers, the focus has been on the quality of education and in particular the quality of the initial teacher training. As a result, the government has since implemented a package of major institutional reforms.

With regard to the training offerings and content and the quality of teacher mentoring, the State nearly doubled the number of teacher training colleges from 6 to 11 in 2020. The academic and professional level of the mentoring staff at these teacher colleges has also been raised by recruiting educational science academics instead of former primary school teachers and educational consultants.

In terms of the academic level required for admission to a teacher college as a student teacher, a new policy is in place to recruit at the BAC level instead of the BEPC level, as the latter has proven insufficient in ensuring that the skills required for a teacher are developed.

In order to improve the academic and instructional content of student teacher training and therefore the quality of learning, the government has introduced the following to the curricula and teacher training:

  • the national languages to move toward a bilingual or even multilingual system
  • the competency-based approach
  • pre-recruitment upon admission to initial training to safeguard the teaching profession
  • a practice school for each teacher college to practise new teaching approaches
  • the matter of student teacher evaluations
  • the development of a competency framework, etc.

With regard to the curricular reform to introduce the national languages and the competency-based approach, it should be noted that, according to an evaluation carried out in 2021, this reform has not been very successful. In effect, the evaluation states that “[t]he analysis of the data collected through the QCX [expert multiple choice questionnaire] tests revealed an overall failure of the reform as it was implemented in Niger.”

Strengths, limitations and outlook

Generally, when a country is able to i) ensure the internal efficiency of its education system, ii) reduce educational wastage, iii) control the student/classroom and student/teacher ratios, iv) ensure equity in terms of enrolment and distribution of human resources, and v) ensure training of educational staff, we can then infer a certain quality of education.

However, the situation is quite different in the partner countries of the KIX Africa 21 program. The factors identified above are the ones that KIX Africa 21, the AUF, the CONFEMEN and the IFEF/OIF are working with to support the state actors in order to make the necessary adjustments to align with international quality standards.

Accordingly, the KIX Africa 21 hub has initiated national policy dialogues through workshops to discuss the need for a quality assurance management plan for teacher training and other current educational issues.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Niger

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