Development of teacher education

apl-biteTeacher education policy: International development discourses and the development of teacher education

Paper prepared for the Teacher Policy Forum for Sub-Saharan Africa
UNESCO Paris – November 6, 2007

By Chris Yates, Institute of Education, University of London


Education for All (EFA) is a Global Social Justice (GSJ) Project. Fundamental to the achievement of EFA, is the concept of quality. Even if all children get into school by 2015 what is really important in terms of long term poverty reduction and the enhancement of the quality of their lives is that: (a) they manage to stay in school and complete the education cycle and (b) that they receive a quality education experience which is sufficient to enable them to become independent lifelong learners as a result of having been in school. The quality education and training of teachers is central to the success of the EFA project understood in these terms. While it is accepted that there is as yet, little universal agreement on what actually constitutes ‘quality education’, or indeed how best to achieve it, the UNESCO (2005) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) did provide a helpful state of the art review and some pointers as to a way forward. One thing that is clear, international opinion has not supported in any serious way, the idea of de-schooling, or even any kind of mass based distance learning system for children as an alternative for the conventional model of the school. Even though we now have some of the ‘tools for conviviality’ that Illich imagined, schools and teachers remain central to the achievement of a quality education process.

A second point we can draw from the 2005 GMR, is that of the four countries listed as being among the top performers in terms of offering a quality education for their students (Finland, Korea, Canada and Cuba), all four of these countries place a high value on teacher education and their continuous professional development (CPD) and on social networking. Further, teachers enjoy high status in all four of the high performing countries. The quality of teachers and their continuing education and training is thus central to the achievement of quality learning – at least until a learner has achieved the means to sustain a degree of independent learning that they need to maintain their well-being throughout life. But I argue, it is important that teachers come to hold a developed view of learning and not to be satisfied with any attenuated version if quality EFA is to be achieved.

Since the 1950’s a number of macro theories of education and development have emerged to explain relationships between education systems and national development. These include the human capital theory (including the basic needs approach); education for liberation (associated with decolonisation and the reduction of structural inequality) and education for the fulfillment of human rights. On the learning theory front, the UNESCO 2005 GMR identified three education traditions associated with notions of education quality which it termed behaviourist, humanist and critical approaches (UNESCO 2004:32-34). Each of these three learning theories has their origins in different value and epistemological foundations. These learning theories (Behaviourism, Humanism, and Criticality) might arguably be thought of as demonstrating a degree correspondence to alternative education and development discourses. For example, libertarian/utilitarian human capital theory could be seen to have an affinity with behaviourism and what has been termed learning as consequences; while the liberal humanist perspective might be thought as having some correspondence a human rights perspective and learning as constructions, while the Post-marxist structuralist theories (education for liberation etc), may claim more affinity with the critical approach learning as connections (Yates and Unterhalter 2007). Learning as connections can also be linked more recently to the development of cultural and social capital (ideas pioneered by people like Bourdieu and Passeron and more recently Putnam). Further, perhaps we can now detect a kind of (post)post-modern synthesis emerging which is attempting to bring all these pre-impasse theories together, coalescing around the ideas of Cosmopolitan theorists like Amartya Sen (1999) and Martha Nussbaum (2000) under the banner of Development as Freedom as measured in the evaluative sphere by the Capability Approach (CA).

Let me now summarise a little and attempt to draw together these few introductory points in an overview schema (see Table 1 below).

Table 1: Development discourses and quality learning

Discourse: Development as Notion of quality education Focus of learning Evaluative


Agency–structure relationship Underlying political philosophy
Growth – Human capital Behaviourism Consequences Input-output Intervention Utilitarianism/ Libertarianism

Thin cosmopolitanism

Improved human rights Humanism Constructions Processes Institution Liberalism
Liberation Criticality Connections Outputs/outcomes Interaction Post-Marxism
Enhanced freedoms Capability Combinations (3C)

‘rich learning’

Agency Integrative



Thick cosmopolitanism

What I am suggesting is as we think about and work on the many policy challenges and opportunities that lie before us in the realm of teacher education for EFA in Sub Saharan Africa in the years ahead, that we hold in our minds a kind of rich version of teaching for learning (<teaching for> learning as consequence, construction and connection 3C; Yates and Unterhalter 2007) which draws on the best of what is known from all the education-development discourses and traditions and that we try to formulate and implement policies for a kind of learning that is of the 3C variant indicated above, through in part working to establish a 3I model of agency and structure and what Unterhalter after Miller (1998), has called ‘thick cosmopolitanism’ (Unterhalter 2007).

What I would also like to suggest today is that in this age of EFA everyone charged with the responsibility to consider and make better (read fairer) teacher policies would do well to invest what scarce time we seem to have these days in studying and thinking harder about what key foundational ideas and values might most fruitfully underpin our efforts to attain improved GSJ through EFA and improved teacher education, as much as we consider the growing weight of empirical evidence coming before us from the plethora of research studies, the media and elsewhere. The works of contemporary justice theorists are of particular import to us in this regard (see for example Brighouse 2004, Brock and Brighouse 2005, Fraser 1997, Miller 1976, Moellendorf 2002, Molyneux and Razavi 2002; ONiell 2000, Pogge 2001, Roemer 1996, Rawls 1999, 2001; Sen 1999; Walker and Unterhalter 2007).

Evaluating teacher training and textbook supply in Kenya

Let me now begin to try to unpack and explain my schema for teacher education policy development using some examples drawn from a recent textbook and in-service  teacher training evaluation I was involved with in Kenya last year (MOEST 2006). In a recent evaluation of a national Kenyan teacher in-service education and textbooks programme the following textbook ratios were reported in the primary schools – see Table1.2 below

Table 1.2 Kenya: National primary school textbook ratios

Upper primary

(books per student)

Lower primary

(books per student)

National target 3 2
Reported: by headteachers 3.05 2.37
Reported: by KRTs: 3.09 2.38
Audit: by field researchers 3.24 3.13

(Source: MOE 2006)

These findings confirmed the national targets for textbook availability in Kenyan primary schools in Maths, English and Science, had been largely achieved. The figures were drawn from a nationally representative sample survey of 450 schools (2.5% of the total) drawn from 29 of the 76 Kenyan districts, and are indicative that teachers and students had books available at close to the recommended government policy targets. The textbook input targets had been largely achieved.

Similarly in the same evaluation study, we attempted to measure the effects of having access to text books and an in-service teacher training course in terms of other outcomes. For example, learning gains achieved in the national primary examination Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and enrolment and repetition rates among children attending schools in different poverty situations (see Figs 1 and 3 below). Such measures serve as proxies for quality improvements in learning and teaching.

One analysis we undertook compared the KCPE performance of Standard 8 children over time, within three different (low, medium and high) Human Poverty Index (HPI) poverty bands. In Figures 1 and 3 below it is shown that the largest increase in KCPE performance since 2003 has been from children living in the poorest districts (i.e. those in the high HPI band).[1] Regarding children from middle-income districts there was also an increase in KCPE performance, however, by a smaller amount. Perhaps surprisingly we found children living in better-off districts (i.e. the low HPI band) experienced declines in KCPE performance. The increase in KCPE performance in the poorest districts was most significant between 2003 and 2004, and was followed by a slight decline between 2004 and 2005.[2]

(Source: MOE 2006)

(Source: MOE 2006)

When these impacts were further disaggregated by gender we found some quite dramatic effects. Figure 2 below shows the highest increase in mean KCPE scores for girls was in the poorest districts (i.e. the high HPI band). While there were also increases for children studying at schools in districts with medium poverty levels, the gains are not as great as those for girls in the poorest districts.

Figure 2: Changes in KCPE performance for girls by poverty band

(Source: MOE 2006)

Further, improvements for the poorest children were not only manifest in the KCPE results. Examination of repetition rates (see Table 3 below), found that they had decreased the most in schools in which headteachers estimated were the poorest (i.e. they had the highest number of children from poor families).

Table 3: Average repetition rate by HT assessment poverty levels

Poverty Bands

(based on HTs estimates)

Median of mean repetition rate 2002 Median of mean repetition rate 2005
High poverty schools

(more than 70 percent of children from poor families)

9.15 7.65
Medium poverty schools

(61 to 70 percent of children were from poor families)

8.80 8.00
Low poverty schools

(50 to 60 percent of children were from poor families)

7.45 6.70

(Source: MOE 2006)

However, all these findings are primarily representative of learning which we termed learning as consequences – in that they are primarily being claimed to be consequences of the learning inputs made. This data and its interpretation, tells us nothing about the various functioning’s teachers or pupils may have achieved as a result of having access to the text books and the in-service teacher training. It tells us nothing about the functionings (beings and doings) that teachers and pupils say they have reason to value. In terms of the evaluative frame and the notion of learning, they are a consequence of the inputs the state made. But what about other more complex ways of thinking about of learning – such as learning as constructions e.g. through the development peer collaborative learning, and learning as connections e.g. through the development of community involvement with the school and the development of social capital? How might one measure/demonstrate these kinds of quality changes in a teacher education evaluation?

Use of textbooks by Key Resource Teachers (KRTs in-service trained teachers) and non-KRTs (teachers who did not receive the in-service training programme)

Demonstrating learning as construction and connection is of course much more difficult. For example, when we looked for changes to the pedagogic practice of teachers it was harder to find evidence of significant change. The use of text books by Key Resource Teachers (KRTs) and non-KRTs was investigated to see if there were any differences in their classroom use. From this focus we found little evidence of differences between the trained (KRT) and non-trained teachers (non KRT), except in the area of group activity with textbooks. The importance of developing collaborative learning was one of the aims of the School based Teacher Development (SbTD) programme.

Table 4 gives the total number of KRTs and non-KRT’s using each of the four reading activities and the overall percentage scores.

Table 4: Four reading activities and the overall percentage scores

Subject Teacher reads to class (minutes) Pupil  reads to class


Group Activity with textbook


Individual exercise

with textbook


Textbooks not used














































(Source: MoE 2006)

These findings suggest there was little overall variation in classroom use of textbooks between the two groups of teachers, although KRTs are more likely to use textbooks in group-based activities and to involve the pupils in more active forms of learning beyond the use of texts in teacher-led activities. Similarly, in a video analysis (of 67 lessons given in Maths, English and Science), 62 percent of Standard 6 teachers made use of textbooks in their teaching and 34 percent used paired or group work in their lessons. However, the most significant differences in classroom practices were demonstrated by the KRTs who had received the most INSET under the INSET initiative: 64 percent used paired or group work in their lessons and 89 percent made use of textbooks in their teaching. 42 percent of the teachers changed their classroom layout to meet the requirements of different kinds of learning task and different kinds of learning talk.

Although these changes are quite small, they do serve as an example of a change and quality development in terms of leaning as construction (in that, trained teachers were more often assigning work where pupils were encouraged to work together in groups to construct and negotiate their learning). Most importantly, we found significant developments in the range of reading activities which are now possible through the increased supply of textbooks. For example, in the 1999 National Primary Baseline study only 3 percent of classroom time was taken up with reading compared to 44 percent in 2006 study). So the 2006 study claims that the introduction of a national textbooks programme accompanied by a national in-service teacher training programme made significant differences to children’s reading time and had some impact on collaborative learning (learning as construction).

Intersections between (basic) needs, rights and teacher policies

But all this presupposes teachers are able to claim access to the training needed to help them develop and hone the pedagogic skills required to help children learn collaboratively (i.e. provide a quality education as part of the fulfillment of children’s basic rights under EFA). It also suggests that there is a duty bearer in place with recognised and accepted responsibilities and sufficient resources available to enable them to offer regular institutionalised training to teachers wishing to claim access to such professional needs. Both of these conditions require some form of state institutionalised teacher education and training service. No amount of small scale ad hoc provision by well intentioned NGO providers can ensure national CPD will be accessible to all who need/want it. At the moment, the nation state is the only agency with the responsibility if not always the resources, to institutionalise teacher (in-service) training and so make it possible to deliver such teacher needs for training and hence children’s rights to a quality education. The recent trend to engage contract teachers in an effort to reduce high teacher pupil ratios raises a number of interesting policy issues here, particularly with regard to the development of teaching quality, equality of pay and conditions and learner’s rights to a quality education (see for example Action Aid 2007, UNESCO 1966). As Unterhalter has commented with regard to gender equity

Is the basic need for education to be assessed relative to the resources available for providing this? And are these resources, local, national or international? For example if there are no trained teachers in a particular region and particularly no trained women teachers, whom some communities require to educate their daughters, can a government claim it does not have to satisfy that basic need? Or must the whole population of teachers in the world or the potential of a society to train sufficient teachers, particularly women teachers by a certain date in the future be considered as a resource for meeting that need? (Unterhalter 2007:49).

Presumably there would be a few international (teacher) education policymakers adhering to notions of ‘thick cosmopolitanism’ that would support such a suggestion – though the days when external loans or even grant aid might be made available to meet teachers salary payments still seem some way off. Nevertheless, it is clear that even as far back as  1966 when UNESCO penned its ‘Recommendations concerning the Status of Teachers’ (UNESCO 1966), the drafters were cogniscent of such issues providing clauses which address the international movement (though not external financing) of teachers and their requirements for equal pay and conditions for teachers taken on under conditions of short term contract; something that existing recent short term contracting practices would appear to contravene.

The provision of the national textbooks programme and a large-scale in-service teacher education involving 100,000 teachers (over 50% of the national teacher force) in Kenya was initially strongly supported by external development partners essentially to prevent gross insufficiency and/or harm (as an effort to counter falling Gross Enrolment Rates) and thus could be thought of as an intervention. It is only when both programmes become formally institutionalised as fully funded legally recognised parts of the Ministry of Education regular teacher education programme, that they might be regarded as having moved from being an intervention to a sustainable aspect of the government quality EFA programme. The achievement of learning as construction may well need some form of state sponsored institutionalisation of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), if it is to become a grounded and sustainable part of a teacher force pedagogic repertoire, and thus come to play its part in the development of a richer form of quality learning under EFA provision.

Human Capital Theory (HCT) and teacher education policy

Approaches to evaluating social policy which draw on a HCT approach often focus primarily on the aggregated benefits to the whole society now or in the future and usually pay less attention to the value of an investment in teacher training for the individual teacher. Such an approach looks at the benefits to the whole society or a future society. For example, investing in a national textbook system and/or a teacher in-service training service with a specific focus on achieving improved gender equity under a HCT value framework is not so much interested in the benefits to the individual women teachers trained or even the girl children they will teach, but the benefits which will accrue to the whole society at large (e.g. through improved health benefits to mothers and their children or reductions in violent crime). HCT approaches to evaluation do not generally look at levels of discrimination in terms of under achievement at the individual level, because the investment is not primarily for that individual’s benefit, but for the society in which that individual lives.

The Capability Approach (CA) and teacher development

By contrast, the capability approach as developed by Amartya Sen and others (see in particular articles in the Journal of Human Development) provides policymakers with a somewhat different framework for evaluating and assessing individual well being and for the design of policies to promote that well being in the context of a social justice project like EFA. The Capability Approach provides a way to conceptualise and evaluate both individual and social well being, poverty and inequality. Though the approach is not able to explain these things, applying CA to issues concerning education policy for improved social change will often require additional explanatory theories.

With the capability approach the key focus is with what people are able to do or be (doings and beings). More fundamentally it is concerned with people’s (in this case teacher’s) freedoms to achieve what they have reason to value. The capability approach is concerned with protecting and facilitating the freedoms that allow for the development of a wide capability set. Central to this are the actual functionings teachers possess that enable them to do or be the things that they have reason to value. This may involve relatively simple functionings at the classroom level, like being able to maintain classroom discipline in order that children might learn cooperatively; to quite complex functionings for example, participating in community projects by playing a significant role in the success of a whole school renovation programme. The possession of capabilities which facilitate children’s cooperative learning may result in a kind of learning we have termed ‘learning as construction’ in that it involves the negotiation of meaning rather than the transmission and appropriation of information to be recalled and or applied in some way in order to pass an end of course examination like the KCPE.

Sen’s development of the capability approach came in response to some of the shortcomings of a preference satisfaction approach and of using real income as a primary measure of well being and justice under HCT approaches. There are a number of reasons why Sen adopted this position. For example, some preferences are adaptive. People hold certain preferences not because holding them is a result of a belief that holding them will fulfill their best interests, but because their circumstances have come to distort what is actually in their true interests. Take the example of a woman teacher who holds a preference for staying at home with her children and being a ‘good mother’ not because it is her ideal preference, but because it seems to her like the only realistic option, as she cannot get access to the child care which would allow her to go on a residential training course which would take her away from home overnight. Brighouse (2005) has explained we cannot defend a policy of that prohibits such a person from developing her professional career on the grounds that she has what she wants (her preferences are satisfied in knowing she is a good mother); if the only reason she wants what she wants, is because the policy is framed in such a way as to prohibit her from having a professional career.

Similarly, a capability approach to evaluating the effectiveness of teacher education policies differs from the fulfillment of say a human capital (basic) needs approach e.g. in providing a teacher with a fixed number of years of initial training at a college which they need in order to perform effectively as a teacher in say an isolated rural African school, and measuring their learning gains from that training in terms of the number, range and facility with a particular competency skill set by someone with little understanding or experience of the teaching contexts in which that teacher will eventually practice. This approach is not primarily interested in the learning and skill set of the individual teacher per se – but with the longer term gains to the society as a whole, as a result of the increased productivity of the teacher and those that teacher teaches. By contrast, the capability approach is concerned with enhancing an individual teacher’s freedoms to acquire and develop a capability set that enables functionings that they have reason to value. Or as Sen has put it

A person’s capability refers to the alternative combinations of functionings that are feasible for her to achieve. Capability is thus a kind of freedom: the substantive freedom to achieve alternative functioning combinations (or less formally put, the freedom to achieve various lifestyles) (Sen 1999:75).

We believe the provision of textbooks has been an important strategy in low resource economies of SSA for achieving improvements in educational quality over the last couple of decades. We have suggested that a predominant utilitarian HCT approach to evaluation would focus on measuring the availability of the textbooks in terms of access as measured by the textbook ratio. And further, that such an approach may seek to measure learning gains through proxy measures which serve to focus on learning as a consequence of such specific inputs. However, the capability approach to evaluating outcomes illustrates some of the weaknesses of this outcomes based approach. For example, Robeyns (2005:99) explains that the relationship between possessing a ‘good’ (read textbook) and the functionings to achieve certain beings and doings (read facilitate children’s learning to use the same textbook independently to achieve deep learning unaided – through say homework) is influenced by three groups of conversion factors – that she terms: (i) personal conversion factors (e.g. teacher’s diagnostic skills; ability to be creative) influence how a teacher can convert the characteristics of the commodity (the textbook) into a functioning. If the teacher has never been trained in teaching with the use of textbooks in say for example, the Multigrade classroom setting – then mere access to textbooks may not be much use in facilitating effective children’s learning (deep learning); (ii) social conversion factors (e.g. education policies (on textbook use – taking books home etc) ; norms (attitudes to reading) gender roles, power relationships (parental involvement with the school)) and (iii) environmental conversion factors (e.g. climate, geographical location) all influence the ability of the teacher to convert the characteristics of the ‘good’ (i.e. textbook) into the achieved functioning (children’s deep learning). If children do not possess satchels or the government/school policy forbids the use of textbooks off the school premises for homework, or fails to encourage community involvement with the school, then it becomes more difficult for the good to achieve its functioning. Hence knowing how many teachers and students have access to, or own a textbook in primary science that they can use is not sufficient to reveal what functionings they can achieve. Much more needs to be known about the personal, social and environmental contexts to make worthwhile policy judgments and evaluations.

The capability approach thus takes account of human diversity in two ways: by its focus on the plurality of functionings and capabilities as the evaluative space, and by the explicit focus on personal and socio-environmental conversion factors of commodities into functionings, and on the whole social and institutional context that affects the conversion factors and also the capability set directly (Robeyns 2005:99).

A concluding comment

This paper has tried to illustrate how contrasting international education discourses might be mapped onto the quality EFA debate with respect to teacher development in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In the paper, it has been suggested teachers, teacher educators and policymakers might look for ways to foster a richer form of learning termed ‘3 C learning’ through the EFA programme in the pursuit of higher quality education. This goal might be assisted by drawing on a range of different evaluative frameworks (HCT, Human Rights, Capability approach) with regard to the analysis and assessment of policy and action in the area of teacher development. And that such work will continue to need shorter term interventions complemented by longer term institutionalisation and sustainable societal interaction (3I). It is perhaps by working to better understand, critique, use and where feasible integrate the different discourses, research and the evaluative frameworks available to us, that policymakers working in the field of teacher education for EFA will come to devise better policies and achieve improved Global Social Justice. Clearly, we have far still to travel.


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[1] We are using 2003 as the baseline year as this is when the Instructional Materials Programme (IMP) was launched as a national programme. This is also around the same time that the In-service Education and Training (INSET) programme was expanded nationally.

[2] Before 2003 there was no clear pattern emerging in terms of differences in KCPE performance. For example, between 2000 and 2002 increases across the three bands were found. In 2001, schools from the medium HPI band had a relatively higher mean score followed by the low HPI band. But in 2002, the high HPI band had the highest increase followed by the medium HPI band.

[NOTE: The above is a paper I did for UNESCO a while back Nov 2007 – in which I advocate using the Capability Approach (CA) of Amartya Sen with a stronger focus on the achievement of improved social justice through better Teacher development programmes. Basically I think we need to move the teacher education and development debate on from the dominant ‘competency based approach’ to one which educates teachers to help learners achieve more effective conversion of their capability sets into outcomes that they have reason to value – to use the relevant language – Which basically means planning implementing and evaluating teacher ed programmes from a different philosophical starting point – i.e. CA – This view may be of interest to your group.  Chris]

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