Under the theme of Learning Opportunities for All: The Critical Role of Teachers, the 2016 Nigerian Annual Education Conference was aimed at recognising the importance of teachers, and generating ideas and practical strategies to provide the support they need to ensure the overall improvement of the quality of basic education in the country. The conference took place on 8th November 2016 in Abuja with the main objectives of;
- Providing an opportunity for communicating research evidence that will guide basic education policy and practice of the Federal and State governments, and to
- Bringing together stakeholders in the Education and policy sector.
With the central role of teachers in mind, the purpose of this conference was to engage with questions on that directly affect teachers and impact on their ability to deliver quality education. It tackled issues of short, mid and long term strategies of improving teacher performance, responsibilities of stakeholders in the sector, the development of effective teacher management systems, and understanding the unique challenges for the profession during times of emergency and conflict. The conference presented information and evidence on these highlighted issues, before going on to engage in robust discussions with participants of the conference, and finally producing recommendations on how these issues can be sustainably improved.
Accordingly, the conference was structured into 3 subthemes
- Improving the quality of teaching: a ten-year agenda
- Developing a coherent, systemic approach to managing teachers effectively
- Rebuilding education services in emergencies: the role of, and support for teachers.
The opening session featured the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo as the keynote speaker, underscoring the role of the government in providing support to teachers and recognising efforts made in the areas of teacher education, capacity building and professional development. In the lead presentation Professor Kwame Akyeampong set the tone for the subtheme discussions by illustrating the current scenario of teachers, advocating for making teacher quality a national priority in Nigeria by having more teachers of high quality and who are managed and supported to meet the learning needs of disadvantaged groups, particularly in areas where education services are being rebuilt. He ended the presentation by proposing some questions for discussion in each of the three subthemes.
With goodwill messages and addresses from development partners and leading figures from the FME, the plenary session was concluded and participants broke into the subtheme sessions.
Three subthemes were constituted to address key questions that aim to contribute to policy direction and adoption of best practices. Each subtheme had a convenor to direct discussions, and presenters offering perspectives of a researcher, decision maker/political office holder, policy implementer, education practitioner, and an investor in education.
The first subtheme on improving the quality of teaching: a ten-year agenda, was set up to determine the criteria for establishing a professional basic education teaching force in Nigeria by 2019, 2025 and in the longer term, and explored strategies to achieve the set out goals. With presentations on the requirements to achieve the short term, mid-term and long term objective of developing a professional basic education teaching force, participants discussed the challenges, solutions, and actions being taken on those different levels. Based on those discussions, the following resolutions and recommendations were put forward;
- At a policy level, the NTEP and NCE can serve as very important guides for reform and sustainable improvements in the teaching profession (in terms of instilling the desired qualities of effective teachers and the required pedagogical skills) which can have far reaching effects by enforcing minimum teaching standards and putting regulatory measures in place. Specifically, there is a need to (a) Raise the standard for new entrants and ensure systematic and developmental approach to managing teachers through self-development and government funded capacity building; (b) Enhance the status with improved incentives and deliberate policy choices in order to attract competent graduates into teaching profession; (c) Sustained engagement at the school level from the government in a more structured way with new methods, materials, innovations, and technology that will be able to generate data
- Education sector strategic plans for each state must be developed with the participation of wider stakeholders, and shared and promoted to ensure implementation and long term attainment of the stated objectives.
- In addition to gradually increasing budgetary provisions for education, it is also necessary to leverage opportunities for increased funding by building up partnerships with the private sector as well as international agencies.
The second subtheme on developing a coherent, systemic approach to managing teachers effectively, was constituted to address all issues regarding teacher distribution, recruitment and deployment, teacher management, welfare as well as other topics regarding motivation and remuneration. This session had 6 panellists with 36 participants representing the various stakeholder groups in the education sector. After an exploration of strategies to meet the needs of the teaching force and set out an effective management system that can deliver support within the highlighted time scales, the following resolutions and recommendations were put forward;
- To ensure equity and transparency in recruitment and deployment processes, UBE legislation from 2004 and other regulatory measures empowering the Federal Quality Assurance Office to monitor compliance on these procedures should be enforced down to LGA and schools level.
- With regards to teachers’ welfare, it is necessary to increase professional opportunities for progression as well as the improve the present working conditions. This can be achieved by (a) Entrenching systems for regular payment and a review of teachers’ remunerations/ improved status as a Joint venture/Project of NUT/TRCN/ILO/UNESCO/Commonwealth Education Protocol and Wages Commission; (b) In addition to providing professional development opportunities, enhancing the effectiveness of teachers with clear job description and outlines of career paths for new teacher from the onset with special consideration for teachers working in rural areas; (c) Focus on promoting strategies for improving teachers’ status and remuneration - Engage IBTC and other fund managers to build sustainable financial portfolios informed by the teachers’ competencies and wages /protocols from TRCN/ ILO/UNESCO/CTP/NUT
- The use of technology should be adopted and integrated into the system to mobilise teachers and introduction of e-learning in teacher training programmes to impart 21st century skills to the teaching force. In addition, this also serves the critical purpose of data collation to ensure accuracy of the statistics and metrics in the profession.
- It is essential to empower the TRCN to define teacher competencies to align with protocols for teacher mobility in West Africa. Accordingly, this would facilitate the recruitment of a stronger entry cohort and ensure that the colleges of education provide the skill sets required for a good primary school teacher.
- A review the ‘expanded’ curriculum which currently offers forty-plus subjects to be taught in schools is necessary as this approach has resulting in a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ situation.
The third subtheme on rebuilding education services in emergencies: the role of, and support for teachers, was constituted to explore the current capacity of teachers (individually and the teaching force as whole) to support children’s continuous/return to school and learning in periods of emergency such as the northeast Nigeria. It covered both volunteer and qualified teachers as well as how teaching and learning may be supported in emergencies. The panel had 6 stakeholders offering their perspectives, as well as 31 participants representing the education sector. Based on the presentations and discussions, the following resolutions and recommendations were made:
- Teachers should be given prominent position in the community (they should be valued) with better safety measures, data management, and welfare packages. This can be done through (a) Government campaigns to promote and elevate their standing by the establishment of monuments for teachers in states that suffered great losses of teachers during crisis; (b) Security measures for such as perimeter fences constructed around schooling facilities and security guards / military officers posted nearby; (c) Additional support to the development partners who have begun to offer training programmes for volunteers and teachers without professional qualifications; (d) There should be increased incentives for teachers in emergencies as well as in rural areas. An inclusive welfare package - life insurance, health insurance, communications devices should be provided
- More teachers need to be recruited to cope with the large number of children and a database of teachers in emergencies - teacher management information systems which includes information on prior to emergencies, during and after should be established to account for them.
- A guide book or manual should be developed which outlines a better coordinated and comprehensive policy in responding to education in emergencies to support teachers and ministries with teachers with provisions for teachers to receive counselling on dealing with psychological trauma
- Use of ICT and technology – novel and innovative ways of delivering education have been identified utilising radio and other technologies which can reach remote areas with limited instructional resources. This can be deployed to further engage the teachers, pupils and communities.
- The status of teachers must be enhanced to reflect the importance of the services they provide. In practical terms, there should be a gradual increase in budgetary provisions for education with a special focus on improving teachers’ welfare and ensuring their safety and security.
- The current system / process of recruitment, training and long term professional development for teachers should be reviewed and restructured. To enhance effectiveness of teachers, a clear job description should be created, professional development achievements should be closely linked to promotion opportunities, and a career path for progression should be provided to all new teachers from the onset.
- Existing policies for recruitment and legislation relating to teachers should be properly implemented from state to local government and school levels.
- There must be sustained engagement from the government to equip teachers with 21st century skills. The availability and ability to utilise Information and communication technologies will offer a useful means of bridging the gaps in the sector. With the adoption of e-learning tools, teachers can be better equipped to deliver quality education.
- There is need for a coordinated and comprehensive policy in responding and providing support teachers and ministries in times of emergencies / conflict. A database of teachers (teacher management information systems) which includes information on teachers prior to emergencies, during and after should be developed as this can assist in recruitment, deployment and training information processes, as well as inform mid to long term policy decisions.
The Minister of State, Anthony Awunka delivered the closing remarks, thanking all the participants of the conference highlighting this as a source of encouragement to stakeholders in the sector, and a signal of the government’s commitment to improving the quality of education, and in particular, the status of teachers. The Minister also recognised and thanked the organisers of the conference, expressing confidence that with support from all the stakeholders who contributed to and participated in the conference, the government would review the outcomes of the conference and continue in its efforts to improve the quality of basic education in Nigeria
For information about the inaugural edition Nigeria’s Annual Education Conference held on 8th December 2015, please visit http://www.nigeria-education.org/content/nigerias-annual-education-conference-2015.
For general information on NAEC, please visit http://www.nigeria-education.org/content/nigerias-annual-education-conference-naec