Giving teachers a voice on their professional development in Zambia

According to UNESCO’s 2016 Education Policy Review, in 2010 only 15% of Zambia’s Secondary School teachers were qualified to teach, with STEM subjects being particularly affected. Even though the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) already launched a Fast Track Training initiative for STEM subjects in 2012, teacher quality remains one of Zambia’s key education priorities. As the Government has decided to strengthen continuous professional development (CPD) for teachers to ensure they remain skilled throughout their career, the Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme is supporting the development of a National CPD teacher framework in collaboration with the Teaching Council of Zambia (TCZ) and other stakeholders. Since there is little evidence of teachers’ participation in policy-making, the development of the CPD framework is also an opportunity to involve teachers in social dialogue with the government.

In light of this, CapED held a workshop on CPD and social dialogue in September. The meeting provided a platform to: (1) share findings on CPD practices in Zambia, (2) build a common understanding on why the country needs social dialogues and (3) ensure a sound foundation on the development of a CPD framework and the institutionalization of social dialogues.  

Participants benefitted from the experience of Uganda, where CapED has actively contributed to the development of CPD and social dialogue. The General Secretary of the Ugandan National Teacher’s Union and experts from IICBA and the Makerere University in Kampala shared lessons learned and highlighted key issues that should be taken into consideration as Zambia embarks in this process. Similarly, delegates from Malawi presented their approach to developing a CPD framework. The lively discussions involved government officials, as well as representatives from civil society organizations, the private sector, teacher unions, universities, TCZ, UNESCO, and the Independent School Association of Zambia. 

Based on these exchanges, participants agreed on the CPD teacher framework’s outline. They concluded that to ensure ownership and sustainability, the development process must be as consultative as possible, allowing teachers, MoGE, and TCZ to contribute to the development process. For CPD to be operational it will also be necessary to strengthen the CPD management system especially by TCZ and create a costed CPD implementation plan, which will serve as a management and monitoring tool. Participants also called for an in-depth mapping of social dialogue in Zambia’s education sector and endorsed the need for a national framework for social dialogue together with a costed implemented plan.

Social dialogue is one of the strategies to attain SDG4.c, which states that, “as teachers are a fundamental condition for guaranteeing quality education, teachers and educators should be empowered.” CPD is also part of SDG4.c. The target calls for socio-economic and political rights for teachers and for governments to strengthen policy dialogue mechanisms and to make teaching an attractive, first-choice profession with continuous training and development.

The Permanent Secretary for Administration of the MoGE officiated the meeting and expressed his gratitude to UNESCO and CapED for supporting the ministry strengthen teacher quality. He stated that CPD is one of the effective ways to improve education, as it targets self-development, and eventually institutional development. “Despite the immense contribution by stakeholders […] there is currently no framework to regulate and coordinate CPD activities for teacher,” he added.  

The workshop was a big step forward for Zambia in their CPD and social dialogue development process. Keeping up this momentum, consultations with teachers on the draft CPD framework will take place in 2019 and a national validation workshop will follow. Going forward, both frameworks will need to be in line with the draft national education policy, which is close to finalization.

In Zambia, CapED works to improve the quality of teachers through teachers’ professional standards, social dialogue, continuous professional development and upgraded pedagogies.