Zambia’s commitment to education has been clear since it passed the 1964 Education Act. Education development has been a main priority with a steady portion of government spending devoted to the sector, as well as successive education sector plans and policy reforms.
Despite progress, school performance remains below the minimum standards established by Zambia’s Ministry of Education. Challenges remain such as quality, relevance, efficiency, and equity. One of the main issues is the lack of qualified teachers in Zambia and the failure to recruit, train, and retain a qualified teaching staff. This lack undermines education quality and leads to the country struggling with one of the highest teacher-pupil ratios in sub-Saharan Africa, (48:1 in 2013).
To help tackle these challenges, a National Conference on Pedagogy was held in Lusaka, on 29-30 November 2018, supported by the Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme, UNESCO’s delivery platform for the Education 2030 Agenda. The conference provided a platform to bring together teachers, teacher educators, policy makers, government representatives, researchers and education partners in Zambia, such as Impact Network, the Norwegian Association of Disabled, JICA, and USAID to present and examine their knowledge, experiences and research in pedagogy in order to develop theories, practices, and a common perspective to transform pedagogy.
The conference’s objectives also included, assisting the Ministry of Education gather material for a national framework on pedagogy, fostering stakeholder engagement by broadening professional networks, increasing understanding on the importance of pedagogy, and helping the country strive towards the Education 2030 Agenda, by focusing on improving education quality through teachers.
“Teachers in this country need to take an introspection of their practices in class.”
In his opening speech on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Luis Mwansa, the Director for Planning and Information in the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) stated that, “teachers have relied on the use of teaching approaches which promote rote learning and memorization of facts.... Because of this, our learners have not performed well in any assessment which required them to display real conceptual understanding.” He noted that efforts have already started to address dysfunctional practices, for example the revision of the school curriculum, as well as the amendment of the teacher-training curriculum to strengthen its pedagogy component and to align it with the new school curriculum. He urged that, “teachers in this country need to take an introspection of their practices.”
One of the main outcomes from the conference was the creation of a clear roadmap towards the development of a national framework on pedagogy that will take into account the context of the education system in Zambia. The framework will be based on best practices shared by teachers during the conference and is expected to be developed and operationalised by mid-2019.
Another priority raised during the conference was the importance of continuous professional development (CPD) initiatives in order to help retain staff and there was consensus on the need to develop a CPD policy. One proposal was for teachers who participate in CPD to gain points, which should be taken into account by the Teaching Council of Zambia when renewing teachers’ licences.
Participants also agreed that the conference should become a national annual event and the main interdisciplinary platform for teachers, teacher educators, researchers, and other education practitioners to present and discuss teaching innovations, trends, concerns, challenges and solutions. In particular, there was a resolution that a similar conference, focusing purely on language as a medium of instruction be organised and held in early 2019.