Monkge explains that the purpose of ETSSP is borne of a desire to improve the MoE results that have been deteriorating since 2008 and ensure that students learning outcomes are improved.
One of the key issues that were raised within the ETSSP is to look at the concept of leadership within schools in a broader professional development perspective. This includes strengthening teachers in order for them to deliver quality education. “So this approach of looking at how we can strengthen learning and teaching is very critical”.
Globally, the best international models in innovation are in the field of education. There are about five key elements, or commonalities across the best performing countries which are globally competitive and Botswana is aspiring to be part of this family of nations which are working hard to improve students’ learning outcomes.
These countries set robust and consistent learning standards for the children. They work on them and make sure that students do fewer subjects and in greater details at various levels as opposed to doing seven or eight subjects, “which we are just rushing across”. Key to this notion across all standards is emphasising what students need to know and be able to do it.
The learning standards are set in such a way that they are assessed on the three critical areas of knowing, understanding and application in the subject areas of maths, literacy, science and the arts subjects across all excelling countries.Recruiting the best teachers, retaining, compensating, supporting and evaluating them in terms of what they are doing are yet other common factors for global competition. “Who do you recruit to become a leader of the school? So you start identifying them mentoring, supporting and making sure that you evaluate their performance and ultimately appoint them to the position of being a principal”.
“ETSSP has come on board to articulate clearly that we need professional development, we have to work on it but unfortunately that has not been done in terms of implementation although this is the fourth or fifth year since it was conceptualised, so we are simply behind in terms of putting across this notion of professional development,” said the PS.
Therefore, the whole process of identifying a leader and training them is in response to the fact that there has never been any effort at any organisation without focusing on leadership. “Process and strategies on their own cannot change organisations. What changes organisations are individuals, so the training that we are embarking on as part of the component of ETSSP is to build this leadership that is going to drive students when they complete or come”.
Dr Monkge said they are focussing on three aspects of leadership - that is focused on learning and teaching in the classroom. “Do we have a principal who can tell good teaching when they see it, do they know how it looks like, do they know how it smells like, can they identify it when they see it? So, those are the key tenets of having a very good leader in the school”.
There is also the organisational aspect of leadership which involves mobilising the resources, infrastructure, teachers across, providing them with the resources including the teachers and the parents so that they support the whole notion of teaching and learning at the school. The third point is administrative role which is about the daily running of the school as an institution and making sure that the necessary tools are in place to ensure that indeed there is effective running of the organisation.
The ministry saw it fit that there is a turnaround training targeting school principals which is going to bring principals from different sectors to USA and other countries to share experiences of what they are doing to make their schools the best. “So it offers our team that opportunity that they will be able to learn from the best performing countries how they do it, how they become successful and how they deal with the challenges that they have”.
The leader who is exposed to this training should be able to turn around his or her school if given the necessary tools. “It is going to be an experience for them because it is not theory based. The hope is that because we are starting the implementation plan next January, we are preparing the ground for making sure that we have people who can engage others locally and train them to become trainers of trainers at our level in the system.
“Secondly, the fact that they are coming back and they are going to be working with our people based on the training that they have acquired and own experience, this will help them to enhance their capacity to engage others and work with them. The intention is to continuously build the capacity. We will have a lot of these workshops and ensure that this becomes part of our culture.”
The priority is that student welfare must be in the forefront, they are a determining factor of “our progress going forward”. The next focus will be on teacher development, they are going to be running parallel. “The intention is you cannot boil the ocean, with primary schools we will be very selective and start with schools which are struggling. We really want to bring all schools aboard so that when we start in January, the school improvement plans that we are going to monitor and get results are in place.”
When the teachers return from Harvard they are going to be working in schools and we are going to build a system that is going to monitor on daily basis teaching and learning and providing feedback so that those who are going to be taken through this training will be thoroughly monitored and know what is expected from them, Monkge said.