iGO Zambia - Early Learning Course for Pre-Primary Teachers

Tessa Welch

Saide has been commissioned by the Roger Federer Foundation to design a self-directed, multi-media, group-learning teacher professional development course. The purpose of the course is to build the capacity of pre-primary and early grade teachers in community primary schools in Zambia to provide quality early education to young children. The course also supports all primary teachers to draw on key teaching methodologies and apply them in their own teaching context, thus expressing the importance of allowing children a good start into formal education and promoting age-appropriate learning throughout primary school. Tessa Welch reports.

The course has central learning and teaching themes, each of them for a two-weekly phase. Each theme is introduced in a Collaborative Teaching and Learning group in the first week, while in the following week three Teaching and Learning in Context sub-groups of teachers apply that learning in their own context, either pre-primary, or Grade 1 to 4, or Grade 5 to 7, always guided through the app on the tablet (and the print version for taking own notes and studying at own pace).

This is a general course. Teachers apply the different themes and methodologies to their own grade context, in line with the Zambian ECCDE and Primary Curriculum. There are opportunities for teachers to reflect on what they have learned and practiced in the Teaching and Learning in Context activities, and support and motivate each other to continue their studies. The course is activity-based, and teachers engage in reading, study activities (partly based on videos), classroom-based activities, quizzes, and a pre- and post-test.

The course is designed over 20 weeks in Term 1 and Term 2 and will start in 2020. The course is designed for four hours of study per week, adding up to 80 hours of study time in total.

The pilot will be implemented in 450 schools in first cohort/pilot, in the Southern, Central, Northern and Eastern Provinces, covering three languages (iciBemba, Chitonga and Cinyanja). The course will be delivered in the form of an offline App on a tablet (accompanied by a short Tablet Guide, focused on how to use the app), and in printed form (called Study Guide). Each school will receive a tablet with the App on it, and a set of printed materials. The printed version of the course will contain all the course material of the App, except multi-media tools such as videos, graphics, audio glossaries, and 10 titles of digital storybooks in each of seven local languages and English.

The introduction of audio glossaries recognises that teachers are competent in speaking the recognised African languages in this region, but the levels of written literacy in these languages may not be high. Also, although all these languages may have orthographies, there will be standardisation issues for the written forms of the language. In addition, we are working on the assumption that the English language competence of the teachers is not high. In the long term, it would be desirable to offer not only the glossaries, but the all the texts of the course as local language audio.

We will translate 10 chosen stories from the African Storybook initiative into all three languages. These stories will be used throughout the course. We have commissioned  The Centre for Promotion of literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa (CAPOLSA) to do this work and the audio translations for the glossary.

The Reformed Open Community Schools and Zambia Open Community School (ROCS/ZOCS) of Zambia, will be the main implementers in Zambia. ROCS/ZOCS will manage all the logistics for the pilot, and will provide trainers to train the teachers in the community schools. Once the course has been developed and the App has been rendered, ROCS/ZOCS will upload the iGOZambia app onto the tablets, and print the study guides. Saide will provide training for the ROCS/ZOCS trainers. The trainers in turn will do a one-day tablet orientation with teachers, followed three weeks later by a site visit to provide logistical and technical support.

All materials (video, audio, print) will be released under a Creative Commons (CC) Attribution licence.

To date we have finalised the outline of the course. We conducted a stakeholder workshop in Lusaka to consult on the course outline, and have revised the outline based on some of the feedback obtained from that consultation. There is a basic structure of the revised course which needs to be refined by end July 2019. This is in process.