The QEECS project seeks to strengthen the quality of early education provision in Kitwe and Ndola districts in Zambia. The project offers intensive support to 18 community schools in particular, including support to infrastructure development, teaching and learning materials, linking the communities to services, parental involvement and teacher development.
However, the teacher development component of the project is broader, aiming to reach all the community and government schools offering early childhood education in the two districts. In order to accomplish this ambition, the project collaborates closely with the in-service teacher development structures of the Ministry of Education, at district and at zonal level. The people involved include two District Resource Centre Coordinators (DRCCs) and their assistants, and 17 Zonal In-set Coordinators (ZICs).
What happened earlier
Since early 2015, the QEECS project has offered support on early childhood education (ECE) to the DRCCs and ZICs in both districts. In the initial phase, the focus was on their own capacity development. This was essential, as none of the coordinators are trained as early childhood education teachers. The project undertook a range of initiatives including trainings, workshops, study visits to ECE classes with good practices in the districts, peer learning and continuous mentoring from the VVOB team.
What is happening now
The QEECS project supports the two districts to implement an intensive Continuing Professional Development (CPD) process, reaching all the community and government schools with ECE classes. Over 300 early education teachers, teachers in charge and deputy heads of 159 schools are involved in the process:
Step 1: A two-day training focused on the ECE curriculum, the Ministry’s syllabi, how to establish a daily programme and routine in the ECE class and how to use a play-based, integrated approach to teaching.
Step 2: A two-day workshop on making and using low-cost resource material for ECE. In preparation for this workshop, the QEECS project and the Ministry developed a low-cost resource pack with sample low-cost learning materials, accompanied by a manual on how to make and use them. All the participating schools received a low-cost resource pack and manual, including some basic art and craft material to help make more learning materials. During the workshop, teachers explored the material and manual, and developed more low-cost learning activities and materials.
Step 3: A two/three-day training on child assessment and active learning in ECE. During this training, ECE teachers, grade 1 teachers and teachers in charge learn:
- About the importance of well-being and involvement of children in the learning process, and how to assess it.
- How to use the Child Development Assessment Tool for Zambia (CDATZ) to appropriately assess the development of young children.
- About active learning to reach high involvement of children. This is focused on designing and developing a rich basic classroom environment, with educational corners and small-group activities.
Step 4: Study visits to ECE classes with good practices in the districts. During these study visits, ECE teachers spend a school day observing in the ECE classroom of selected schools. Through their observations and discussions with colleagues afterwards, they can ground the concepts covered during the previous steps in practice.
In between each of the steps, teachers have time to try out what they have learnt in their own classrooms.
What will happen next
Step 5: The district and zonal coordinators will continue to offer mentoring support to the teachers. They will do this:
- Through termly meetings, bringing ECE teachers together at the zonal resource school.
- By visiting schools in their zone, offering individualised support to ECE teachers.
Both of these approaches are embedded in the termly in-service programme of the coordinators.
Following these activities, the QEECS project wants to find out in what ways the CPD process has helped strengthen the quality of ECE teaching in Ndola and Kitwe districts. The project also wants to know how useful and relevant the low-cost resource packs have been for the teachers. In order to find out, the project will undertake classroom observations and surveys. The VVOB team will visit at least twenty schools that have participated in the process during the third term of 2016.