Education International
Education International

New study reveals serious teacher quality challenges in Mali

published 17 October 2011 updated 18 October 2011

More than half of primary school teachers in Mali are without a basic teaching qualification and the competences required to deliver quality education, according to a new study commissioned by EI and Oxfam Novib.

Entitled, ‘Reducing barriers for community school teachers to become qualified teachers’, the study was conducted by Adama Moussa who consulted a range of institutions and community teachers. It sought to identify the key challenges facing community teachers, and the barriers that prevented them from delivering quality education or/and acquiring qualified teacher status.

Community teachers working in community schools are often employed by local communities using their own meagre resources. In Mali, more than 80 per cent of these teachers are unqualified and earn far less than teachers in public schools.

A total of 200 community teachers from four of Mali’s regions participated in the study. The views of teacher union leaders, education ministry officials and teacher trainers were also taken into account in the study.

Major findings and conclusions

Major findings revealed that more than half of the country’s nearly 40 000 primary school teachers were unqualified. Women constituted a mere 25 per cent of the teaching population, revealing serious disparities in the gender composition of the teaching workforce. This staffing imbalance is likely to hinder the participation of girls in education, thereby creating a vicious circle that could risk perpetuating disadvantage and the marginalisation of women and girls in Mali.

It is crucial for the government of Mali to ensure that more women are trained and recruited as teachers, and that support mechanisms are put into place to attract both female and male teachers to rural and remote parts of the country, and to encourage them to remain in post. Promoting women into school leadership positions would be an important step towards bridging the gender gap.

This study has used the national Competence Profile for primary teachers, developed by the Quality Educators for All project partners in Mali, as a benchmark for assessing the professional needs of community teachers. The Quality Educators for All project is a joint initiative between EI and Oxfam Novib. It aims to help governments meet their obligation to provide quality education for all by improving teacher quality through pre- and in-service training and continuing professional development. The project also advocates for improved conditions of service for teachers. The project mainly seeks to improve the skills and qualifications of unqualified and under qualified teachers in both formal and non-formal education and to ensure that the non-professional teachers are trained, certified and integrated into the public service.

The study came to the conclusion that the majority of the community teachers who participated in the study did not meet the quality teacher criteria within the Competence Profile. The knowledge and skills gap identified by community teachers, and those working with them, indicate that they lack an in-depth understanding of the following:

·         Subject matter and content

·         Teaching techniques and methods

·         National language teaching

·         Class management and organisation

·         HIV & AIDS concepts and teaching methods

·         Gender issues and ethics

·         Child-centred teaching approaches and methods

Efforts to improve teacher quality and conditions of service

In 2009, to try and address the challenges of community schools and community teachers, the government of Mali began to transform some of the institutions into municipal schools. To date, 514 out of 2,463 schools have been accorded the new status. The transformation is partly intended to enable community teachers to earn civil service status and the same conditions of service and benefits as other teachers.

EI’s affiliate in Mali, the National Union of Education and Culture (SNEC), is working with civil society, teacher training institutes, the Ministry of Education, and other stakeholders in the Quality Educators for All project to improve teacher quality. The union and other stakeholders in Mali will continue to support the professionalisation of community teachers through training and advocacy, supported by a media campaign.

The stakeholders will also support and provide professional development programmes designed to address the knowledge and skills gap identified in this study. The programme will also focus on improving educational leadership, teaching theory, and practice. By working collaboratively with the Government of Mali and teacher training institutes, SNEC and the Education for All Coalition, who are the main drivers of the Quality Educators for All project in Mali, hope to support community teachers to develop the competences they require to deliver quality education and to achieve civil service status.

This project is a practical example of how teacher unions and civil society can collaborate with each other, public authorities and experts to improve education and teacher quality. The participatory approach, which is one of the key tenets of the project, ensures ownership, commitment and success.

Guidelines on Teacher Competence Profiles

Meanwhile, EI and Oxfam Novib are developing Guidelines on the Development of Teacher Competence Profiles. The principles within this Guideline are mainly based on the findings of the research, ‘Quality Educators: An International Study of Teacher Competences and Standards’, which was commissioned by the two organisations in 2010, and conducted by Paloma Bourgonje and Rosanne Tromp. It was launched in May 2011.

When completed, the Guidelines will be available for use by teacher unions, civil society and other country-level stakeholders interested in developing teacher competence profiles or teaching standards.

You can find out more about the Quality Educators for All project by following these links:

- EI website

- Oxfam Novib website

By Dennis Sinyolo, Education International

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 39, October 2011.