In response to the in-service training needs of Mali’s primary education teachers, USAID/MALI began support of the “Teacher Training via Radio” program, or “FIER” (Formation Interactive des Enseignants par la Radio) in 2004 in seven regions. FIER partner EDC is assisting the Malian Ministry of Education (MEN) in the use of interactive radio programming for teachers and their supervisors. The FIER activity takes advantage of radio’s considerable reach throughout Mali and aims to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry at central and decentralized levels to create quality teacher training focused on student-centered and gender-sensitive pedagogy. FIER runs through 2007 and is reaching approximately 2000 targeted teachers and supervisors along with up to 1000 additional listeners who have taken their own initiative to participate in the programs. Launched in September 2005, the radio broadcasts have excited a great deal of interest amongst teachers and supervisors countrywide, even in areas not directly targeted by the pilot program.
Inspiring Local Initiatives in Bamako
Because FIER was designed to assist Mali in testing the relevance of radio-based training to education reform, the program works only with selected teachers and supervisors in each of seven regions. However, as a result of the radio program’s popularity, several MEN pedagogical support centers (CAPs) in Bamako not participating in FIER have found their own way to benefit from the programs. One such center, the Hippodrome CAP, selected 10 schools in its area where 3rd grade teachers could follow the in-class training broadcasts with their students. Each of the 3rd grade teachers in those schools has come to class on the day of the broadcast with his/her personal radio in order to have access to the programs. With MEN support, the supervisors from the Bamako-Hippodrome CAP are following the same monitoring tasks that FIER staff conduct elsewhere in the country, visiting teachers regularly to ensure that they are able to use the programs effectively. One CAP director enthused, “…The teachers achieve a near 100 percent rate of listenership and truly benefit from the clear guidance provided by the programs.” He has the data to prove it: the supervisors have even developed their own monitoring forms for tracking teacher participation in the programming. These show that 98 percent of the teachers in the 10 schools have followed every program and that 95 percent report that the programs assist them to improve their use of student-centered pedagogy.
Reaching Mali’s Distant North
Teachers in the Timbuktu region of northern Mali remain isolated from one another and from the MEN supervisors (CPs) assigned to provide them with professional development support. In addition, Timbuktu’s CPs do not always receive timely information about changes undertaken by the central ministry or the impact those changes may have on their professional responsibilities.
Given these teachers’ and supervisors’ comparative isolation, the Ministry of Education and FIER staff chose to offer support in the form of training, printed materials and radios to teachers and supervisors in Timbuktu for the two “listening group” programs offered. Teachers and supervisors listen to programs twice per week during a 25-week period. The programs discuss the Ministry of Education reforms underway and provide concrete examples of how teachers and supervisors can participate in and apply those reforms. Due to FIER’s pilot nature and limited financial resources, teachers in the north were not targeted for FIER program support for the use of the third type of programming: training for third grade instructors through in-class radio modules.
Despite this fact, the enthusiasm of third grade instructors prevailed: the supervisors and 3rd grade teachers of the Goundam, Dire, and Rharous (3 of Timbuktu’s 4 prefectures) developed a system to enable all of the 3rd gradeteachers (from 33 schools) to listen to the in-class training program. At the express request of the education directors (D-CAPs), school directors provided the teachers with use of the FIER listening group radios. Each week, the school directors work with the 3rd grade teachers to ensure that they have the necessary material (i.e. radio, worksheets, etc.) to follow the in-class training program with their students. The director then reports to the supervisors on the frequency of listenership in his/her school and on any difficulties that the teachers face in using the programs with their class. They work together to resolve issues, and as a result of their initiative, teachers and students in these prefectures are now benefiting from all three types of educational radio programming made available through FIER.
Providing Support to All
The large region of Kayes in Mali’s northwest (a region often described as “the pressure cooker of Africa” due to its extreme heat) is not currently supported by USAID interventions. However, word of the FIER programs has made its way there. The Director of the Malian Ministry of Education’s teaching academy in Kayes took decisive action to ensure that in the coming academic year, Kayes’ teachers and supervisors could benefit from the same radio-based trainings their colleagues receive in other parts of the country. He established contracts with local radio stations for re-broadcasts of all three programs in his area, and has written directly to the central ministry of education to request cassette copies of all of the radio programs. The Academy Director explained, “The teachers in his region have a great need to be able to use these programs, since training over the radio will enable a large number of teachers and supervisors to have access to identical, high-quality training and information.”
Originally published on September 1, 2006