Quality teaching in rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Different perspectives, values and capabilities

Buckler, Alison (2015). Quality teaching in rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Different perspectives, values and capabilities. International Journal of Educational Development, 40 pp. 126–133.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2014.10.008


Over the last decade vast sums have been invested in Sub-Saharan Africa to enhance teacher quality. Yet improvements in quality – when interpreted as enhanced pupil attainment – are disappointing. This paper shows how Amartya Sen’s capability approach can help answer the call for a renewed focus on, and reconceptualisation of, quality teaching by considering the pursuit of valued goals in teachers’ work. It is increasingly understood that what teachers do, matters. Drawing on a recently completed PhD, this paper examines the professional capabilities of two women teachers from a rural Nigerian school. These teachers provide a focus for exploring the relationship between official representations of teachers’ work and the professional lives teachers create and experience. Official perspectives were extrapolated from policy documents around teachers’ work, teachers’ perspectives were drawn from an ethnography of rural teachers’ lives carried out between 2007 and 2011. A list of professional capabilities was developed from each perspective to represent what was valued in teachers’ work, and the study developed an analytical framework for evaluating teachers’ professional capability from each perspective. This paper draws out some highlights of this analysis and proposes a new cyclical model of professional capability for quality teaching.

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