Teacher development is the primary focus of a training workshop presented earlier this week by the Continuing Professional Development Unit at the University of Namibia. This inter-disciplinary unit works in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to develop the competence of instructors who, in turn, draft study guides for other teachers. The workshop aimed at assessing and training educators in primary education. It supports those authors responsible for the information needed by various teachers across the country.
Dr John Nyambe, who is the director of the Continuing Professional Development Unit, spoke to the Economist concerning the workshop. "What happens is that within the Ministry of Education there is a Standardised Achievement Test (SAT) for grade five and seven. They started this programme in 2004. In those tests, there are four categories of achievement. There is below basic , basic, above basic and excellent. Every grade 5 and grade 7 learner takes the test in Mathematics, English and Science. The problem we have found is that every time the tests are conducted, the majority of the learners score below basic or basic which means they have not acquired the necessary competencies. What this means is that teachers are not effectively teaching those competencies. What we the Continuing Professional Development Unit decided to do is to mobilise some stakeholders in education to develop learning material to support teachers."
Dr Nyambe explained that the CPD unit has hosted several workshops over the years to address the problem of performance amongst the young learners. He described the vital nature of this workshop and how it differs from previous similar training initiatives. "This is a preparation workshop to prepare our writers as the people who will write the learning material for teachers. The material will target those competency levels. As an example, If am a grade 5 teacher how can I handle topics like multiplication. so that my students understand it?"
The CPD unit is part of the University of Namibia's extensive structure that helps ameliorate the appalling primary education levels in Namibia. It focusses on improving the quality of education by improving the quality of teachers, as well as improving the teaching methodology.
They also work closely with the Ministry of Education in disseminating new information on the teaching frontier. Their research has led them to determine the core material that is vital for primary teachers. "At UNAM we realised there is need for a standardized set of material to improve the efficiency of teachers at both primary and secondary level. Therefore, the educators who are present at the workshop are taught according to this format or template" Dr Nyambe explained.