Transforming the quality of secondary school teaching

Planting the seeds of change

Two secondary school teachers acting in a role play on the relationship between a headteacher and a member of staff.

South Sudan has a very small secondary sector, with less than 250 secondary schools and approximately 3,000 teachers. While governments and donors have focused their attention on increasing access to primary schooling in recent years, the secondary sector has  been neglected. In particular, secondary school teachers have had few opportunities for training or continuous professional development, leading to doubts about the quality of secondary education.

The small size of the secondary school sector in South Sudan is often portrayed  in negative terms; schools are few; enrolment rates are low; dropout is high and quality is often poor. This is understandable – but it also offers a rare opportunity. That there are so few teachers and schools in the secondary sector means it is realistic to develop a comprehensive and nationwide secondary schools improvement programme. It is an ambitious aim but Windle Trust International believes that a transformation of secondary school teaching and learning is achievable.

When Windle Trust International (WTI) conducted a needs assessment among secondary schools teachers in Western Equatoria state, we found that secondary school teachers felt neglected  – but they also offered ideas on key training needs to improve their skills and the quality of their teaching.  To explore how best to improve the quality of teaching and learning in secondary schools, WTI in association with The Open University, developed an innovative and participative approach to teacher development and management. We invited secondary school head teachers and teachers from Yambio County to come together for a week to debate and agree the most effective way of improving their teaching and their management of teachers.

The atmosphere was open, positive and enjoyable. Teachers recognised their shortcomings and were delighted to be given a chance to shape a future training programme that will enable them to teach more effectively. Head teachers, too, acknowledged their need to be more active and constructive in teacher management. The next step is to take the proposals from this workshop and turn them into a bespoke school-based teacher development and management that will be rolled out to all secondary schools in one or two states. Our intention is that this training programme will be the first phase of what will become a nationwide secondary school programme to improve the quality of teaching and learning across the whole of South Sudan.

 As one of the participants in the workshop said, “From small acorns, great oak trees grow”.