Teaching at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Teacher Education in Poor and Marginalised Communities

Akyeampong, Kwame (2022). Teaching at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Teacher Education in Poor and Marginalised Communities. In: Wagner, Daniel A.; Castillo, Nathan M. and Suzanne, Grant Lewis eds. Learning, Marginalization, and Improving the Quality of Education in Low-income Countries. Learning at the Bottom of the Pyramid (2). Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, pp. 77–111.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0256


Achieving SDG4—inclusive and quality education for all—requires every child to have access to quality teachers. However, in many lowincome countries (LICs) and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) large numbers of children, especially in poor and marginalized communities, lack access to well-trained teachers (UNESCO, 2013/14). As a result, many of these disadvantaged children fail to meet the expected minimum learning outcomes for their grade, causing many to drop out of school in the early years. UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), for example, estimates that six out of 10, or 617 million, children and adolescents in LICs and LMICs are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics (UIS, 2017). The crisis is more acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where about 85 percent of children are not reaching minimum proficiency levels despite being in school (Luschei & Fagioli, 2016; Luschei & Carnoy, 2010; World Development Report, 2018).

However, the crisis is not simply about the inadequate number of teachers, but also about the fact that few trained teachers know how to meet the learning needs of poor and marginalized children. These children are in school but not learning—described as the “silently excluded” (Lewin, 2011). For many of these children, the schools they have access to are so low quality that any hope of education providing a route out of poverty is unrealistic (Lewin, 2011). As Dyer (2013) points out, “the schooling available to the poorest is itself often so poor that it is likely to perpetuate cycles of deprivation as it is to interrupt them” (p.221). Ultimately, this learning crisis points to a lack of programs that can help teachers meet the needs of children at the bottom of the learning pyramid. However, some promising research shows the possibilities of effective classroom practices and teacher education reform, some of which are discussed in this chapter.

The chapter is organized into three sections. First, it discusses the teacher training and supply crisis, outlining the factors that impact teachers’ abilities to meet the learning needs of children who are being left behind. The second section presents case studies of inclusive pedagogies that report positive impact on learning for children who have dropped out of school. The third and final section concludes with a discussion of the implications for reforms that can improve teacher education and close the learning achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children.

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