- Independent evaluation shows Train for Tomorrow leading to more teachers using cutting-edge pedagogy
- Findings come after similar independent study showed pupils in MGCubed programme are reading more words per minute and are one year ahead in numeracy tests compared to their peers
- Varkey Foundation also opens five new studios to further enhance its programmes and assist in scaling up teacher training across the country
New independent evaluation shows the huge impact an innovative distance-learning teacher training programme in Ghana is having on the quality of teaching practices.
Train for Tomorrow, run by the Varkey Foundation, the education charity, and funded through a $2 million USD grant from Dubai Cares, is sub-Saharan Africa’s first live two-way interactive distance learning teacher training programme.
Since August 2015, 40 ‘hub’ schools have been provided with solar powered and satellite-enabled video-link equipment, allowing highly qualified ‘master trainers’ in Accra to conduct regular interactive training sessions that focus on best practice teaching methods, including group work, critical thinking, the use of higher order thinking skills, reflection and analysis – techniques that deliver better quality educational outcomes. The head teachers and school leaders who participate in these sessions then go back to their own schools and repeat the training for the other teachers in their schools, reaching nearly 5,000 teachers and 90,000 students.
The independent evaluation, by Dalberg Global Development Associates, shows that teachers going through Train for Tomorrow showed a statistically significant improvement in instructional performance, including:
- Wave 1 teachers in the 40 hub schools improved their scores on Direct Classroom Observations of their use of the improved teaching techniques by 38%, and Wave 2 and Wave 3 teachers by a huge 137%;
- The percentage of Wave 2 and 3 teachers who encouraged cooperative learning – which enhances retention of learning through group work – increased from 13% in the baseline analysis to 60%;
- Train for Tomorrow teachers are also more likely than other teachers to explain to students what they will be learning during a lesson and why; are more likely to be aware of the individual needs and students; and to provide a safer learning environment (physical and verbal threats can be a significant issue in many Ghanaian schools). All these have been shown to have a dramatic effect on a pupil’s ability to learn.
Programmes like Train for Tomorrow are vital because so many Ghanaian teachers have not been formally trained to teach. According to 2014/15 figures from the Ghanaian Ministry of Education, almost 63,000 (45 per cent) of the 138,928 working primary school teachers were untrained, as were 31,208 (30 per cent) of the 103,358 junior high school teachers. There is also a significant lack of in-service teacher training, so even those who have been trained initially are not able to update their knowledge and skills regularly.
The quality of teaching is also important due to the high numbers of children in sub-Saharan Africa either out of school completely, or dropping out of education – higher quality teaching is more likely to inspire children to attend school. According to UNESCO, there were 413,314 out-of-school children in Ghana in 2014.
Train for Tomorrow therefore sets out to transform the experiences of both pupils and teachers by raising the quality of classroom instruction.
Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation, said:
“The results of this independent evaluation clearly demonstrate that pioneering edtech can improve learning in parts of the world that are often off the power grid, have limited access to the internet and have few resources to share. I hope it encourages investors to come forward and support similar projects and also inspire entrepreneurs to come forward with fresh tech ideas that are hardy enough to improve education in parts of the world that need their help most.
“We would like to acknowledge Dubai Cares for funding this programme as well as the contributions of everyone associated with making it a success, including all the teachers that have gone through the training and cascaded learning to their schools, the Girls’ Education Unit and the Ministry of Education.”
Speaking about the benefits of Train for Tomorrow, Mr. Isaac Affoh, headmaster of Bosovilla Presbyterian Basic School, said:
“Our classrooms are now modernised and have become very conducive for teaching and learning. Teachers enjoy lessons as much as pupils and academic performance is improving steadily, thanks to the Varkey Foundation’s Train for Tomorrow project.”
His Excellency Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares, said:
“We believe that teacher training is the cornerstone of ensuring quality education. We also value and invest in innovative solutions aimed at eliminating obstacles that prevent children from having access to quality education. With Train for Tomorrow, our aim is to improve the quality of teaching, and create a positive teaching and learning experience for children in Ghana, through an innovative program model by utilizing technology.
“The learnings from the final evaluation of the program which has concluded, will contribute to the growing evidence surrounding teacher training modalities, helping strengthen the design and delivery of teacher training programs in developing countries.”
In addition to the independent evaluation of the programme, Varkey Foundation monitoring during summer 2016 found that:
- Nine in 10 Instructional Leaders (teachers that undergo the initial training from the master trainers in Accra, and cascade it through their schools) had changed their way of teaching since undergoing Train for Tomorrow;
- Eight in 10 Instructional Leaders indicated a change in pupil attitude since starting Train for Tomorrow;
- Seven in 10 Wave 3 teachers had changed their way of teaching since starting Train for Tomorrow;
- 74 per cent of teachers were communication lesson objectives (important for setting pupils’ expectations and helping facilitate achievement).
The findings on Train for Tomorrow come shortly after a similar independent evaluation of another interactive distance-learning programme that is aimed directly at pupils.
Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed), a three-year pilot project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by the Varkey Foundation, is the first project in the country to use interactive distance learning technology to deliver Maths and English lessons daily to 10,000 girls (and boys) in 72 government schools in some of the most deprived communities.
The schools are equipped with solar panels and a satellite connection in order to link with live broadcasts of lessons from highly-qualified teachers, using internationally-approved teaching methods, from a studio in Accra.
Independent evaluation of MGCubed conducted by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), published in August, showed the model has had a significant impact on increasing literacy and numeracy skills among marginalised girls and boys. In literacy tests, MGCubed students were able to read between 3.21-3.74 more words per minute than those in regular classes; and in numeracy tests MGCubed teaching was found to increase average scores by the equivalent of one school year.
The Varkey Foundation last month also opened new studios to enable it to continue to deliver its high quality interactive distance learning programmes.
Whereas the programmes initially operated from three studios, a move to new offices means the Foundation has increased the number of studios to five. As well being larger, they’ve also been fitted with the latest technology to help the Foundation to continue to deliver high quality education and training to children and teachers across the country.