Teachers are learning new approaches to teaching in continuing education courses. And they attend one another’s classes in village schools, then discuss and plan ways of improving their teaching methods.
Some statistics on schooling in Tanzania are promising, others disappointing: nine out of ten school-age children attend primary school and one out of three goes on to complete secondary school. But the figures also show that one out of three pupils drops out of school after only a few years. Talk to teenagers in Tanzania and you will soon find that many of them have a hard time conversing in English or doing simple arithmetic.
This is partly due to the school atmosphere. Interacting with children in overcrowded classrooms is a formidable challenge for the teachers. So the teachers lecture, the kids listen – or not. That puts a damper on motivation, for pupils as well as for their teachers.
Working closely together with the powerful teachers’ union, Helvetas is improving primary school teaching in English, mathematics and sustainable development. So far, up to 700 teachers each year have had an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and improve their pedagogical skills in continuing education courses at teachers’ seminaries in the regions of Arusha, Manyara and Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania.
Recently these courses have a specific focus on improving mathematics teaching as well as a new form of know-how exchange: at 150 primary schools, teachers are now inviting their colleagues to attend one another’s lessons in order to learn from one another. Afterwards they get together to discuss simple changes they can make in their day-to-day teaching. Teamwork, for example. Letting kids ask questions in class. And using locally available materials to make teaching aids.
Helvetas’ continuing education for teachers has become a mainstay of teacher training in northern Tanzania. The education ministry – with which the project signed a cooperation agreement – has taken an interest in this form of continuing education for teachers and is planning to introduce the program in other regions.
The objective is not only to give pupils better prospects in the employment market, but also to empower them to become civic-minded citizens capable of contributing to the social development of their communities and their country.
Anthony Marloa, teacher, Dumbeta village, Arusha region, Tanzania