Across sub-Saharan Africa, educational systems are in disrepair. Working with limited budgets, systems have improved access to education across the board but have not enhanced the quality of learning experiences. Thus, while more than half of teenagers are now enrolled in secondary schools, up 20 percentage points from 1990, fewer and fewer are passing their terminal exams.
Directly related to declining student outcomes are teaching gaps: Approximately 4 million more teachers will be needed by 2015, and more than half of existing teachers in secondary schools lack the proper training to present subjects well and motivate their students.
The Institute of Teacher Education and Development, founded by Kwabena Amporful, MBA ’08, is an independent nonprofit designed to help address the crisis by improving the quality of teaching, the most important determinant of student achievement. While solutions in the past have involved multiple parties spanning several countries and operating at different levels of education, this project builds capacity in-country and initially focuses on secondary education in one country: Ghana.
Stanford Graduate School of Business awarded Amporful a 2011 Social Innovation Fellowship to develop INTED, whose five-year “trainer of trainers” approach will build the capacity of teachers and administrators in 10 percent of the secondary schools in Ghana. Participants will benefit from summer intensives in content, pedagogy, and peer training offered by outside institutions, as well as ongoing evaluation and support during the academic year.
INTED, which will run initially on grants and donations, will eventually create a self-sustaining infrastructure in which alumni of the program will become trainers throughout the country. Over time, this capacity-building solution will be replicated in other West African nations, which have a similar education curriculum.
The quality of secondary education is deteriorating in many African countries. In Ghana, while enrollment ratios increased from 37 percent in 1990 to 55 percent in 2008, student pass rates on terminal exams for core curriculum subjects decreased from 36 percent to 25 percent between 2006 and 2008.
“Access to education — a goal of African governments working under budget constraints — has increased, but student performance has declined,” observes Amporful. “My own personal experience and research on education highlight the poor quality of teachers and school leaders as a leading factor.”
The inadequacy of African secondary education will only continue to degrade with widening teacher gaps. Ghana, Amporful’s homeland, currently has only a quarter of the teachers it needs to serve in pre-tertiary levels. Of the approximately 26,000 teachers who are employed in secondary schools, more than half lack adequate training.
With African economies just on the cusp of positive economic change, the situation is critical.
“Most sub-Saharan African countries grew at or above 5 percent continuously for the first time during the 2000s, and this pace of growth will require a substantive and trainable labor base with basic education,” Amporful emphasizes. “Clearly, it’s time for an effective intervention.”
The Novel Idea
INTED uses a scalable “trainer of trainers” model that puts the responsibility for a successful program squarely on the participating secondary schoolteachers and administrators, who will then reap the rewards.
The pilot will run for a five-year period, reaching 10 percent of secondary schools in Ghana — among the nation’s top-performing institutions as measured by student test scores. Set to begin in summer 2012, it will convene 100 teachers and school leaders, selected based on their degree of passion for making changes in the education system, for a three-week summer intensive. The intensive, to be offered by an institute of higher education, will help participants strengthen their content knowledge and pedagogical skills in a minimum of four core areas: math, English, social sciences, and integrated sciences.
During the subsequent 2012-13 school year, INTED staff and consultants will monitor and evaluate teachers’ progress in the classroom. In the summer of 2013, the group of teachers will once again convene, this time learning how to train others to use the materials. The program will be repeated for three subsequent classes and will instruct a total of 700 professionals to become peer trainers as well as better teachers. The pilot will then be used to develop a program that may be scaled throughout the remaining 90 percent of secondary schools in Ghana. If successful, such a pilot can also be introduced across other West African countries, where the same education curriculum is used.
As part of the program, INTED will deploy an incentive program to encourage ongoing improvement and the sharing of best practices. Each year, the schools involved will compete for “most improved schools” awards, based on both student terminal exams and teaching performance compared with the previous year’s results. The top three schools will share the cash-based awards, which can be used to improve facilities and resources, and to remunerate participating teachers and leaders. Teachers in the program will contribute to a monthly newsletter highlighting their experiences and best practices according to their subject areas and focus.
Eventually, the program will become self-sufficient, not requiring training from outside institutions. Top teachers in other existing training programs will be given the opportunity to understudy alumni of INTED as assistant teachers, and others will serve as summer intensive instructors.
In putting together this innovative project, Amporful has solicited support from an advisory team of stakeholders in Ghana’s educational and business sectors, including the Ministry of Education, as well as international universities and educational agencies, private funders and foundations, and association of heads of schools. One of the most supportive institutions has been the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford’s School of Education, under the enthusiastic guidance of Professors Pamela Grossman and Susan O’Hara, CSET’s founding director and founding executive director, respectively. INTED will rely on grant funding for its initial operations.
Growing up in Ghana, Amporful, like most students in his country, had only moderate enthusiasm for education. When he was given the opportunity to go to an international high school, however, everything changed.
“I suddenly found everything interesting. Teachers in my high school were alive with material, presented it systematically, and made learning and engaging with it exciting,” Amporful says.
After attending Hampshire College in the United States and heading off to Wall Street to become a financial analyst, Amporful co-founded NEO Africa Foundation, which supported 20 students in 12 secondary schools across Ghana through financial assistance, mentorship, and extra teaching support during the summers.
“We realized great results with the student scholars,” he says. “All of them passed their terminal exams, compared to only 25 percent of students nationally, and all of them attended university, versus only 6 percent nationally.”
While still working in financial services, Amporful attended the MBA program at Stanford GSB “to go back to thinking like an entrepreneur,” he says. After returning to Ghana in 2009 to work with the largest full-service investment bank in the country, he decided to take more seriously his idea of applying his energies to improving the country’s educational system. Pinpointing the development of teachers and school leaders as his starting point, he created INTED.
“Without the encouragement and support of faculty and administrators at Stanford University, and particularly the Center for Social Innovation, I simply couldn’t be doing this project now,” Amporful says. “I’m thrilled to be working on it. The folks on the ground in Ghana are extremely excited that a person from the private sector is looking at solutions to one of their main social problems. It gives them wind in their sails.”
Kwabena Amporful received an MBA from Stanford GSB in 2008. In 2011, he was awarded Stanford GSB’s Social Innovation Fellowship, which provides up to $180,000 in funding, along with advising and support, to graduating students who want to start a nonprofit venture that addresses a pressing social or environmental need during the year after graduation.