Uganda: Building a stronger teaching force
- In Uganda, many teachers did not have adequate knowledge of educational content, particularly for teaching the early grades.
- The GPE-supported program aimed to improve teacher effectiveness in the public primary education system.
- Now better trained teachers as well as stronger school leadership are paving the way for improved learning.
Teachers form the backbone of the education system, and skilled teachers are able to unleash the potential of their students, leading to better learning and opportunities for children.
In Uganda, many teachers lacked adequate content knowledge and/or pedagogical skills, particularly those teaching the early grades. In 2013, a survey conducted by the World Bank found that 4 out of 5 primary school teachers in Uganda did not have the minimum knowledge in English, math and pedagogy.
Additionally, teacher absenteeism was high with teaching time loss estimated to be in the range of 30 to 40%. Without a qualified and motivated teaching force, children in Uganda faced the risk of being deprived of a quality education.
GPE supports quality teachers
To overcome these challenges, GPE allocated a US$100 million grant to the government of Uganda to build a stronger teaching force and ultimately improve learning outcomes.
The GPE-supported program, which ran between 2014 and 2020, aimed to improve teacher effectiveness in the public primary education system. The three-pronged intervention focused on:
- Training teachers in pedagogical approaches
- Providing teaching and learning materials
- Developing an inspection system to better supervise teachers.
The program also aimed to improve school effectiveness by training primary school leaders and members of school management committees in target districts to effectively supervise their schools, while improving school facilities to enhance the learning environment.
Improving reading skills through better teaching methods
At the end of the program, 14,500 teachers and 2,500 head teachers in 29 districts with low reading outcomes had been trained in early grade reading methodologies. Essentially, these methodologies train teachers to use simplified methods of instruction when teaching foundational reading skills in local languages.
Over 1,500 tutors from 46 primary teacher colleges, which train up and coming teachers, were also trained in this methodology to ensure they can apply sound pedagogy methods as soon as they enter the workforce.
Better qualified teachers have led to a positive impact on student reading ability. An early grade reading assessment (EGRA) evaluated a cohort of students who were in grade 1 in 2016, grade 2 in 2017 and grade 3 in 2018, and were taught at each grade level by teachers who had received the GPE-supported training.
In 2016, only 1% of the grade 1 students could read 20 or more words per minute; in 2017, 8% of the grade 2 students were able to do so. The 2018 EGRA showed that 27.5% of the grade 3 students were reading 20 or more words per minute in their local language, proving that program interventions were making a difference.
The same students also showed improvements in reading comprehension, which increased from 11.7% in 2016 to 24.8% in 2017, and to 55.7% in 2018.
These improvements in reading fluency and comprehension mean that students acquired a strong foundation for reading in their local language.
New learning materials aligned to the curriculum
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 14 primary school students had to share one textbook for both English and math in 2013.
With support from the GPE-funded program, nearly 12,200 primary schools received new curriculum-based learning materials, reducing the student-textbook ratio to 2:1 and making it easier for teachers to teach.
Now more textbooks are available to students nationwide and support the effective delivery of Uganda’s primary education curriculum.
As a result of the early grade reading training of teachers, combined with the new textbooks, teacher presence has improved from 73% in 2013 to 91% in 2019 according to a study conducted as part of the program.
To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all children, the program also provided just over 1,500 students with hearing aids. In addition, 217 teachers were trained in an instructional methodology for the hearing impaired that combines speaking with sign language, while families received training to support children in the use and maintenance of the hearing aids.
New electronic system improves teacher supervision
Historically, school inspection has been a challenge in Uganda, using a manual process conducted by a limited staff from the Ministry of Education.
As a result, a comprehensive database for school inspection information was severely lacking, hindering the ministry’s efforts to identify and address gaps. To compound the issue, time lags in delivering inspection results to field districts often meant that the data became obsolete before it could be used.
GPE supported the launch of an ICT-based system that uses mobile technology with GPS features to improve the quality of school inspections in 46 low-performing districts.
The new system uses pre-loaded templates to capture school inspection data, which transmit real-time information to solar-powered servers. These servers are housed in the Directorate of Education Standards, where data is quickly processed and reports disseminated to districts.
The reports are accessible through a secure online dashboard, which filters information by school, district, region and national levels. The system also allows schools to upload action plans and provide real-time information on teacher attendance.
Improving school effectiveness
Weak leadership and management practices at schools also undermined the quality of primary education in Uganda. To address this, the GPE program funded training for 1,200 head teachers and 1,200 deputy head teachers in 26 districts.
Over three months, they attended face-to-face training in school supervision, assessment, evaluation and planning, human resources management and payroll issues.
In parallel, over 5,500 members of school management committees attended training to learn about school development planning, managing budgets, and monitoring teacher and student performance, and also attended, where relevant, technical training to supervise school construction activities.
These leadership trainings enhanced school management and will continue to improve school effectiveness.
With GPE’s support, new classroom and administration blocks, separate latrines for girls, boys and teachers, on-site housing for teachers and water harvesting tanks were constructed in 145 primary schools. The schools were also supplied with new furniture.
With better qualified teachers paving the way for improved learning, Uganda is on its way to transforming its education system and leaving no child behind.