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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Building Capacity in Ghana Through Host-Country Collaboration
By Ngozi Max-Macarthy 10-May-19
How can we raise student achievement? Most agree that a strong teacher in the classroom can lead to major student growth. Yet, making affordable, comprehensive, and practical workshops available to teachers can be a real challenge, especially in developing nations. We know that to change a local education system we need strong teaching, but without strong teacher development programs, how can we achieve this? Seven years ago, a small group of Ghanaian teachers at Lincoln Community School (LCS) reflected on this problem. For them, it was very close to their heart. Having attended local Ghanaian schools before pursuing their education abroad and now teaching at one of the top international schools in Accra, they understood first-hand the impact that strong teaching can have on a classroom. Even though their own classrooms at LCS are very different from those in which they themselves were educated, these teachers recognized that the type of training they’d received could be beneficial to teachers all over Ghana. Teachers teaching teachers The vision of this core group of educators was to help improve student achievement at all levels, by sharing their knowledge of international teaching best practices with their peers employed by local basic schools. From this vision, The Educators’ Network (TEN) was created. TEN is dedicated to bringing progressive, research-based teaching methods to local schools in Ghana, all stemming from a love of quality education. The initial focus was simple, but impactful: teachers should teach teachers. This idea has manifested into 10 teacher training conferences over the last seven years, each held at LCS in Accra. Coming from local Ghanaian schools, the number of participants at the TEN conference only seems to grow each year. Coming on foot, by trotro (Ghanaian public bus), or by taxi, these educators travel upwards of two hours on a Saturday morning for the day-long conference. The 2018 workshop noted the highest participation rate to date, with over 550 in attendance and 26 workshops. All workshops are facilitated by our multicultural, world-class LCS faculty, who deliver insights on such topics as the “Pedagogy of Play,” “Developing Mathematical Thinkers,” or “Celebrating and Inspiring Teacher Leadership.” The faculty often cite TEN as one of the most rewarding experiences of working at Lincoln Community School. Teachers volunteer their knowledge and time to support their Ghanaian counterparts, while acquiring a better understanding and appreciation for the host culture. This way TEN supports the school’s mission of maintaining mutually beneficial partnerships within the larger community and the host country at large. Teachers as learners Initially, TEN was all about giving back by sharing knowledge and skills with Ghanaian teachers, to improve their practice and therefore student learning in schools throughout Ghana. After some time, however, the organizers realized that the conference in itself provided a powerful forum for the teaching community in Ghana: meeting, sharing common (and uncommon) challenges, debating solutions, questioning, building capacity, and bringing back some pride in a profession that is in dire need of support in this country. The network now goes beyond the conference, with facilitators and participants creating and maintaining professional and personal relationships. One participant captured the spirit of the program succinctly by commenting “I have learned about the importance of teachers as learners.” As teachers, we expect growth and resilience from our students, but do not always promote those values amongst ourselves, as colleagues. The Educators’ Network not only encourages the growth of local educators but encourages international teachers to play a pivotal role in that process. Organizers of the workshops could take this model and apply it to future stops in international schools. It is a leverage point for impacting the local community and a model for improving teaching everywhere. Darren Radu, a Lincoln Community School teacher and TEN workshop facilitator, often cites TEN as one of the most powerful organizations he has been a part of in his time in Ghana. To him, the organization creates “sustainable, impactful, and significant improvement,” and that “is something we should all be proud of.”
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