June 29, 2000 Vol . 18, No. 5

SFU helping Malawi's teachers

By Carol Thorbes

Simon Fraser University, Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba and Hickling Corporation in Ottawa are joining forces to help Malawi overcome its crisis in secondary school education.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) recently awarded the two universities and the private consulting firm a five year, $5 million contract to help the African nation of 10 million increase its roster of secondary school teachers and upgrade the quality of secondary schooling.

Malawi is experiencing a severe shortage of space and qualified secondary school teachers.

CIDA reports indicate Malawi's existing secondary schools will only be able to accommodate 10 per cent of the country's 800,000 primary school graduates this year. Statistics show that as little as one to three per cent of students in some of the agriculture-based country's secondary schools pass national exams.

In their joint bid to CIDA, SFU, Brandon University and Hickling Corporation cited a lack of qualified teachers as a key factor contributing to the students' poor success rate. "Many of the secondary school teachers are reassigned primary school teachers in need of professional development to teach secondary school effectively," says Charles Joyner, director of international programs at SFU's centre for distance education.

SFU and Brandon University will help Malawi's Domasi College design and implement a two-year diploma in education program for secondary teachers. SFU will develop distance education materials for the program, which will feature a combination of face-to-face and distance delivery methods.

"This will be the first time that SFU's centre for distance education will prepare course materials for a program to be offered in Malawi," notes Joyner.

A field coordinator and an education specialist from Brandon University are currently in Malawi, assisting with development and implementation of the diploma program at the local level. The CIDA-funded project includes opportunities for graduate level studies in Canada.

The initial diploma program is expected to produce 540 newly trained secondary school teachers and an equal number of support workers over the next five years.

Joyner estimates approximately 80 per cent of the teacher training program will involve upgrading of subject knowledge and 20 per cent teaching skills.

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