Lalao Evangeline is curriculum coordinator for the Toamasina II school district in Madagascar. This year she and a group of colleagues joined coordinators from five other districts in an effort to remake teacher training in their country. Over six months, they met in small clusters to gather and analyze data on what teachers in their districts need to know in order to become more effective in the classroom. In a country where teacher training has traditionally been top-down and somewhat disconnected from classroom realities, this grassroots initiative is transformative.
“By starting with what the teachers want to learn, we have turned the system of teacher education on its head,” says EDC’s Norma Evans. “No one in this country has done it before.”
The coordinators began by collecting information on what their teacher colleagues most needed to learn. Project staff trained the teachers to use software to record and analyze the data. With the results of their own research in hand, the teachers developed professional development plans, which the Ministry of Education will help them implement. EDC will follow the implementation of the new plans and collect data on how successful they are. They hope to expand the process to more districts.
Lalao Evangeline relished the experience. “As an educator, I was frustrated with being told what I needed to learn,” she says. “I am finally in a position to help teachers, principals, and area supervisors take ownership of their learning. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to do this for a long, long time.”
Parents Listen Together
Across Madagascar, parents are meeting in small groups to learn what they can do to support their schools and ensure a better education for their children. 300 communities participate, forming parent listening groups and selecting a member to facilitate. Each group received a free wind-up radio to hear programming on such topics as organizing an effective parent teacher association, developing transparent management systems, and monitoring student performance. After each broadcast, participants discuss the relevance of the new ideas for their community and consider what they can do to enhance learning conditions for their children. Initial data on the groups look promising.
Communities report that school enrollment is up and absenteeism is down. New parent teacher associations have formed where they didn’t exist before and existing associations report revitalized meetings, greater attendance, and renewed agendas. Successful initiatives include buying blackboards, desks, and doors, renovating classrooms, building teacher housing, and cleaning up school grounds.
Originally published on January 1, 2008