International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation
Presentation 4: Pre-service Mathematics Teacher Education in Kenya
Typically 400 students begin training as teachers in a given year. To be eligible, the student has to complete eight years of primary school and four years of secondary school. They used to need seven years of primary school, four years at O-level, and two years at A-level. If a student plans to teach math in Kenya, teacher training also includes other areas.
A candidate sitting for the teachers' exam has to take a minimum of eight subjects. They must attain at least a B-average for six subjects. The best six subjects are selected, but mathematics is compulsory, as well as the native language, and English. Any other three courses can be used. Some required courses focus on adult education so that teachers can help with this in the field, both formally (e.g., in courses for adults) and informally (e.g., with parents trying to gain or refresh the skills they need to assist their children with their schoolwork). Other courses compare education systems and processes in countries in East Africa and countries around the world and discuss general and current issues of importance at the time of training.
Cultural issues are a common point of focus. Kenya has many different ethnic groups, and each has different beliefs. So during training, it is important for teachers to look into the social beliefs for these different groups so they can teach in any part of the country, whether they belong to that culture or not. For example, in the culture of some tribes, girls are not allowed to sit next to boys, so they cannot share a desk. Knowing this contextual information is a crucial component of classroom logistics and management. Cultural knowledge also helps to prevent misunderstandings and discipline problems. For example, sometimes girls are not allowed to wear shoes or trousers. This is something a teacher must realize before insisting that a girl do either. The training provides teachers with this kind of knowledge before they begin teaching.
While in training, prospective teachers attend lectures, and then break into groups of five to eight people where they meet with a lecturer to discuss the lecture content in more detail. Teachers complete six months of student-teaching, during which they are visited by lecturers, who may have taught them during training. Lecturers visit 10 times during the six-month period. They observe, provide feedback and advice, and provide an assessment of the teacher's capability. In later visits, the lecturer uses the earlier reports to assess progress. At the end of the six-month period, the reports are used to determine whether or not the student-teacher can become a classroom teacher.
Later, prospective teachers are sent to any of the schools in the country and expected to teach for nine weeks of the year. They must plan their work to cover the syllabus and allow time for testing. Their lesson notes must show the aim of the lesson, the content they are teaching, and the student activity. They execute the lessons and at the end of the term they prepare an exam, give it to students, and grade the papers. If the prospective teachers have trouble, they can ask the lecturer for help. At the end of the training, they are evaluated and a decision is made about whether they are prepared to teach. If they don't teach well, they repeat the year until they can convince the board that they are ready to teach.
Promises and Challenges Related to the Approach in Kenya
Promising features of the approach were the cultural responsiveness of the teacher preparation program. Some also related to the length of the student-teaching component. Some of the countries have no supervised period of practice teaching. At the same time challenges related to potential logistical difficulties of conducting six months of observation and evaluation. Other concerns related to opposition from parents over their children being taught by unqualified teachers and possibly being less prepared for exams as a result.
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