Teacher absenteeism has been an increasing problem in Kenya. Teachers miss classes due to illness, a family emergency, or for official work other than teaching. Regardless, the outcome is the same: their students miss out on their education. The 2015 Global Monitoring Report noted up to 20% teacher absenteeism in Kenya.
After years of poor results on learning outcomes, the teaching profession in Kenya is getting a makeover, thanks in part to a US$88.4 million grant from GPE. The grant also supports textbooks printing and distribution, and school improvement grants since 2015.
The Teacher Performance Appraisal Development tool (TPAD) is part of the GPE-funded Kenya’s PRIEDE project (Primary Education Development project), which focuses on strengthening school systems and governance. The project targets 4,000 public primary schools with poor performance and supports each school with a US$5,000 grant to develop and implement a school improvement plan (SIP).
Monitoring teacher attendance and performance
Developed and managed by the Teacher Service Commission (TSC), the entity that employs Kenya’s teachers, the TPAD allows the TSC to not only monitor teachers’ attendance and syllabus coverage, but also their classroom performance, professional knowledge, innovation and creativity, and engagement with parents, among other things.
It revolves around regular classroom observations of every teacher in the country by county education supervisors. The resulting appraisals, along with the teacher’s self-appraisal, are uploaded every school term via the TPAD tool on the TSC website. The result is an online database that the TSC uses in decision-making.
In the online tool, teachers must rate themselves in terms of professional knowledge and application, time management, innovation and creativity in teaching, learners’ protection, safety, discipline and teacher conduct, promotion of co-curricular activities, professional development, and collaboration with parents/guardians and other key stakeholders, among other things.
“Our decisions are very objective now,” Caroline Mwakisha, TSC County Director for Mombasa County explained. “It is your performance that will determine whether we can deploy you to become a head teacher or a classroom teacher, for example. We are also able to identify performance gaps and areas of weakness in our teachers and address them through training programs, peer teaching, etc.”
Initial results show big improvements
The results are, in Ms. Mwakisha’s words, “enormous”.
“The teachers are now on their toes,” she says. “They are on time. They understand their role and they feel accountable.”
It is also having an impact on student absenteeism and drop out – and improving student performance.
“With the introduction of the TPAD, the child has become client #1 for the teacher,” Ms. Mwakisha explained. “This positive attitude means children now love to come to school and the dropout rate is going down.”
TAPD was introduced after rolling out a new teacher training package and a government-led reform of teacher salary and incentives.
Challenges to overcome
Implementation started just one year ago, and the roll out was not without hurdles. Access to computers, tablets and even smart phones is still limited in many parts of the country. This, combined with a slow system and limited bandwidth, present challenges for most teachers faced with completing regular reports - not least for the estimated more than 30 percent of teachers who are computer illiterate.
These issues are on the TSC’s radar, and remedies are in the works, including improvements to the website and regular ICT skills training for teachers.
But these challenges in no way diminish Ms. Mwakish’s appraisal of the TPAD’s usefulness: “The TPAD has made teaching a new career: it has finally gotten the dignity it deserves. And today’s teacher is a new teacher. They are motivated, they are focused and they are happy. They are proud to be teachers - which is a beautiful thing.”
“Thanks to the TPAD, the next generation of Kenyans will be very different from those who came before. If you ask me, it is the best thing that ever happened to Kenya.”